Improving Patient Access: Getting Patients In When They Want To Be Seen

Patient access matters. Providing patients with same-day appointments—or with appointments that don’t take forever—matters.  

It matters for service; it matters for care; it matters for efficiency; and it matters in the new healthcare economy.  

Large systems, ACOs, and any healthcare provider or group who plans to serve their patients well should care about adding more patients to their population health management system and providing them with some level of healthcare service.

Let’s take a look at some important points to consider when it comes to patient access, followed by practices and workflows to consider modifying or implementing to improve patient access to health care.

Patient access matters—it matters for service, for care, for efficiency, and it matters in the new #healthcare economy.

The Importance of Reviewing Patient Access Workflows 

One of the most important things medical practices and other healthcare groups can do is regularly assess their workflows to see where there is room for improvement.

And with the rising importance of patient access and population health management, it’s especially prudent to review the efficacy of patient access-related processes.

That said, if you have a busy practice—or even specific doctors who are very busy—here are some questions worth considering about your current workflows and how they either help or hinder patient access to care:

  • How important is it for patients to be seen quickly? Do certain patients need to be seen more quickly (e.g., those with the chronic conditions)
  • How do you work in patients needing to be seen quickly?  Do you keep waiting lists, or do nurses just know? Or, do you put it on the patient to just keep calling?
  • Do you keep slots open on the schedule for urgent patient care?
  • Do you open slots up quickly when you know patients aren’t going to use them?
  • Do you have alternatives for your busiest providers? Do patients have other options for care, such as access to mid-level providers, other physicians, telemedicine, etc., when your busiest providers’ schedules are full? If not, do you have a plan in place to make patients feel truly cared about/for, even if they can’t be seen for a long time?

With these questions/points in mind, let’s now take a look at some practices and/or workflows to consider modifying or implementing to improve patient access to care.

Workflow Considerations for Improving Patient Access to Care

As you review your internal processes, here are some things to keep top of mind—and things you might consider changing or doing:

  • Never forget that, as a healthcare provider, ultimately your mission is to serve patients and keep them healthy.

This makes it super important to ensure there isn’t a problem in a patient waiting for a long period of time not to be seen. It would be better to refer them to another provider, whether internally or externally, than to keep them from getting the care they need or deserve.

  • For busy doctors, create a cadence that lets the patient know you are thinking about them and care about them.  

This could mean sending some type of message—whether email, text, or some other form of communication—based on how far out the schedules are full, or even for folks on the wait lists.  We recommend using an automated system to do this.

  • Make sure to create follow-ups that let patients know you care about their health and want to see them, according to whatever the standards are for your specialty.  

Whether for annual wellness checks, skin checks, other routine exams, and/or National Health Observances, sending patients a friendly follow-up shows you care. Knowing that you care and follow up matters greatly to patients. Consider employing automated systems, such as our Care Coordination tool, to send these kinds of follow-ups.

  • Open slots as quickly as possible, and fill those slots from a patient waitlist or with appointments farther into the future.  We suggest using automated technology or systems, such as our new Waitlist tool, to do this as well.
  • Make it super easy for patients to schedule, reschedule, or cancel their appointments. Automating workflows like this will save both your office and your patients a lot of time.
  • Consider making certain hours or time slots available that are most convenient for patients.

For example, you might consider making more after-hours or before-hours appointments available; adding in convenient time slots for parents; and/or adding evening slots for telemedicine, special cases, and so on.

  • Consider how providers can adjust their schedules to work a more non-traditional schedule.

This enables providers to take advantage of traffic patterns, spend more time with their families, and better spend or allot their time in ways they might not normally get to. Even certain times of the day, like Monday mornings, may be worth taking off, as Mondays are traditionally very high no-show days.

  • Use a high-quality Waitlist tool that lets you identify when patients arrived, how urgently they need to be seen, how long they have been waiting, and how important seeing specific patients is.
  • Flag high priority patients so that you know when they call so you can figure out how to work them in or get them seen.

Is your patient communication system helping your practice improve patient access and engagement? Call (512) 487-7625 or contact us online to discover the Vital Interaction™ difference.

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