A Western Cape Department of Health facility, Retreat Community Health Centre serves over 18,000 low-income patients every month. Many are chronically ill and need to be monitored closely by doctors and take their medications. A major impediment to their staying on treatment was the long wait time at the pharmacy, which Retreat sought to reduce from its three-to-four hour average.
A two-day study of the clinic tracking the patient experience from arrival to departure provided the MIT team with an initial data set to examine. They found that a rush of patients early in the day reliably overwhelmed Retreat’s capacity, creating a backlog that would compound delays in care for the rest of the day. On site, the students conducted 50 hours of observation, 30 interviews with patients, and 20 hours of brainstorming with staff. The team concluded that Retreat’s most powerful tool for reducing wait times was to shift when patients and work arrive at the pharmacy, which booking and scheduling process changes could achieve. Students also identified opportunities to increase pharmacy capacity and capability by improving staff coordination. Finally, by investing in patient education and training, as well as better communication, the team mapped out specific changes that could help the clinic to improve patient experience, behaviors, and perceptions and reduce problems stemming from pharmacy processes.