Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Clutter of the Brain

How many thoughtless acts do you have in a day? I’m not talking about being inconsiderate or rude but how many times a day do you make a decision based on some sort of visual or auditory cue. Intuitive thought has been exploited for years in advertising and building design but how does it apply to health care wait times?

Consider this example. My brother-in-law was asked to lay some special concrete cover for a local Veteran's memorial. He decided it would look nice to put a poppy in the centre of the concrete pad. The unintended effect was that as people walked towards and through the memorial they naturally ambled around the poppy.

So if something so simple as a concrete pad can change behaviour what effect do technology based visual cues have on controlling wait times? Unfortunately the answer is not as simple. Health care wait times have many different variables. In fact, the number of provider days worked does not correlate very well to wait times in the office. However, most perceptual cues have been proven to increase response times (which are why codes are announced overhead in the hospital and the fire station has an alarm) so it stands to reason that improved visualization will improve control.

Our office uses the Excel spreadsheet method I described 2 days ago. Rather than constantly recalculating blocks of time to book based on days worked and patient load we have a chart with average wait time for the different blocks. The administrative coordinator is then free to adjust the blocks of time available based on a more intuitive approach. There are plenty of pre-packaged digital dashboards on the market that will turn analog data into a visual stimulus it just depends on how much in-house programming expertise you have. The questions to ask are 1) What needs to be measured? 2) When do you want a reaction? Based on the answers you can create the visual cues you need.

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