A technology used by retailers to collect data and improve shopper efficiency may also help reduce wait times and track patient flow during eye exams.

The University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center began using radiofrequency identification (RFID) to monitor lags in office visits and to also better gauge glaucoma patients’ time spent at their clinic. Their hope was to find a better way to integrate education into the glaucoma clinic visit.

Doctors, ophthalmic technicians, medical assistants and approximately 2,000 patients wore ID tags with embedded RFID chips that tracked their movements. The data collected allowed the researchers to see how patients and providers moved through the clinic, which also provided a clearer view of patient wait times—defined by any time the patient was alone and not being examined or tested. RFID also pinpointed backlogs and time spent in each room by doctors and patients. The RFID chips also recorded when appointments started and finished. 

A new patient’s visit at the clinic often could take up to three hours due to multiple tests, and long wait times generally factor into a patient’s perception of a visit. To find ways to enhance office efficiency, the team added the RFID data into a simulated clinic model for adjustments. They were able to experiment with changes to scheduling, staffing and operations with an 80% accuracy rate.

Doctors at Kellogg hope the results will improve efficiency and offer more one-on-one interactions between patients and doctors or staff to discuss issues such as medication compliance and new treatments.

RFID has already prompted scheduling changes at the clinic, which has allowed Kellogg to add more patient appointments without increasing the wait.

Kirkendoll SM. Tiny digital ‘tags’ improve eye care by tracking every step. University of Michigan. https://labblog.uofmhealth.org/health-tech/tiny-digital-tags-improve-eye-care-by-tracking-every-step. January 8, 2019. Accessed January 22, 2019.