Meir Hospital in the town of Kfar-Saba is one of Israel's major hospitals. It is owned and operated by Clalit Health Services, the country's largest healthcare organization, with an annual budget of approximately $3B. Meir was one of the earliest sites to install and implement the Q-flow system, starting with 4 of its outpatient clinics. It was the software's successful operation in this hospital that led to Clalit's strategic deployment of Q-flow throughout its hospitals, medical centers and clinics.
Meir's service managers have encountered the major challenges common to most big hospitals, which directly affect both employees and patients in the outpatient clinics:
The most apparent problem was the excessive workload of clinic receptionists. Receptionists were over-burdened by a primary load of patients arriving at the location requiring guidance and a secondary load of patients waiting in line, occasionally returning to the reception to inquire about their status.
The long lines created in front of the receptionist's desk, coupled with a general sense of disorder in the wards, led to low levels of patient satisfaction. This negative atmosphere created also affected doctors, nurses, and receptionists themselves.
In addition, the lack of available online information regarding the patient's arrival and wait in line inhibited any attempt to improve the situation. Doctors were not able to adjust their pace to the situation in the waiting areas and often needlessly hurried patients out of their office.
Management, despite the large investment made on labor studies and research, was unable to obtain necessary statistics for streamlining service processes and improving overall efficiency.
Having isolated the causes of inefficiency, hospital management has set the following goals for needed improvement –
Reducing patient confusion
Reducing receptionist workload
Raising the Level of Service
Improving patient satisfaction
Improving planning capabilities for doctors and managers
To address these goals, Q-nomy proposed a complete solution, which included the following components –
Q-flow's Queue Management module
Q-flow's Appointments Calendar module
Q-flow's Interactive Kiosk at the hospital's entrance
Q-flow's Digital Signage and waiting room management
The Calendar module was integrated with Clalit's appointment management software, providing it with the capability of being automatically updated with appointments scheduled by the organization's call center.
Patients arriving at the hospital would first encounter the Interactive Kiosk where they would be identified by using their Clalit magnetic membership card. The kiosk would check the patient's ID against the appointment calendar and financial records. A patient who has made an appointment and has no outstanding balances would be issued a numbered ticket and directed to the appropriate clinic and room number. Other patients would be asked to see a receptionist. After receiving tickets, patients would then be directed to waiting areas or doctors' rooms, using Q-flow's digital signage and voice messages. The system constantly monitors patient flow, so managers and doctors gain access to queue status and valuable accumulated statistics.
Q-Flow was deployed in 4 outpatient clinics, which employ 50 doctors, nurses and receptionists. These clinics served about 5,000 patients a month, including some 3,500 scheduled appointments and 1,500 walk-in visitors.
After just 6 months of operation, the system's impact became clear, and all goals set by the management were fully accomplished.
Reduced patient confusion: Patients now know exactly where they are heading and when they will receive treatment, from the moment they enter the hospital to the time they exit. This results in a much quieter, more orderly atmosphere in waiting areas. Even if patients do become confused, the combination of clear business logic and available on-screen data enables receptionists to assist them more effectively.
Reduced receptionist workload: 80% of the people given directions by the Interactive Kiosk are satisfied and need no further assistance at the reception desks. Overall, the primary load on receptionists was reduced by about 30%. In addition, as a result of reduced patient confusion, the secondary load was also significantly reduced.
Raised Level of Service: The most important aspect of the system, and the most easily measured service level parameter, is the average waiting time. This figure has dropped by 15% since Q-flow was installed, said Chaim Levinhar, project manager at Clalit. He suspected most of this effect could be attributed to local management's use of the system's reports, and expected further improvement when enough decision-supporting data would be gathered and inspected by high-level management.
Improved patient satisfaction: Patients are extremely happy with the system and appreciate the improvement in the level and quality of service. The system's audible voice messages, which eliminate the traditional sights of nurses calling for patients in the hallway, entailed particularly positive responses.
Improved planning capabilities for doctors and managers: Doctors, despite initial doubts, became the system's biggest supporters and today will not consider working without it. They particularly appreciate the ability to pace themselves and give patients optimal attention based on the status of the queue outside their room. Managers at all levels appreciate the new level of control they gain, and are certain that gathered statistics will be used to improve resource planning and service processes in all clinics.
Another important aspect of the system, made obvious in Meir, is its extreme ease of use. Most users – doctors, nurses and receptionists – took less than 5 minutes of training to gain control of the application.
A survey comparing the clinics working with Q-flow to other clinics in the hospital showed that the Q-flow-equipped desks managed the patient queue more effectively. While the Q-flow-equipped reception desks had no lines forming in front of them except for a brief 2-3 peak hour period, other clinics experienced a queue of over four people in length at the desks during 70% of the time.
"Q-flow-equipped desks today have shorter queues with one receptionist than they did seven months ago with two receptionists," said Rachel Srur, a receptionist at the Urology clinic. "Q-flow helps us significantly, mainly thanks to reduced workload".
Since 2002, Q-nomy has been developing, selling, and implementing software solutions that help organizations optimize the customer experience in their branches or stores. Q-nomy's vision is to make the most out of every customer's visit: more sales, greater customer satisfaction.