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PeaceHealth is not alone in looking outside of traditional strategies to improve patient access. Industry disruptors, such as Amazon and Walmart, are changing the primary care landscape and setting a new expectation for patient access and consumer experience. In response, we have seen considerable focus on primary care access strategy in order to keep up with the competition.
How medical groups can improve access—without investing in a new platform
Despite this focus of medical group leadership on improving patient access, a recent Advisory Board survey finds that most medical groups still fall far behind industry-accepted access standards. Results reveal that, on average, less than half of new primary care patients are scheduled within seven days of an appointment request, with many waiting 16 days or more. So what can medical group leadership do?
- Collect and analyze patient access data. Although common measures of access aren't perfect, using metrics to understand opportunities for group-level patient access improvements can unlock efficiency gains at scale. Tactics such as benchmarking access at a regional or practice level—instead of a provider level—can help groups uncover areas of opportunity for groups to improve overall performance.
- Consider scheduling strategies like centralized and self-scheduling to improve the appointment booking process. Lack of convenience is a main reason patients leave their primary care providers or opt to use a retail clinic. To prevent this loss, many groups are working toward same-day or open-access scheduling by establishing standard appointments types and scheduling templates.
- Ensure that appointment availability matches patient preferences. Our primary care access survey found a significant lag between groups' third next available appointment and when new patients actually schedules a visit, suggesting that new patient visit slots go unused and patient preferences are not being met. Strategies like saving weekend and evening hours for new patients can help groups mitigate this gap and capture new patient volumes.
- Maximize existing capacity by deploying tactics to minimize no-show rates and improve the percentage of used appointment slots. Most groups are working at a reduced capacity from the burden of no-shows and late cancellations. Groups need to track these visits and consider leveraging overbooking techniques where possible to maximize existing capacity.
Our team is conducting new research on these and other patient access strategies. If you are interested in sharing your approach with us, email us at MGSC@advisory.com to set up a research interview.