Access, the time between a patient's request for an appointment and the next available appointment on your schedule, is a concern that is getting increasing attention. For medical practices nationwide this can affect patient-satisfaction scores and jeopardize future revenue from third-party payers. The rationale is obvious. If patients have to wait to get an appointment to see their doctor, it can result in delayed treatments and compromised clinical outcomes. In addition, if they must wait longer for appointments, they may try unorthodox home remedies that could further jeopardize their health.
So find out how long a patient must wait to get an appointment at your practice. Over a 30-day period, prepare a log of appointment access for each day. The first available appointment is often the result of a same-day cancellation, so also track the second and third next-available appointments. Do so at the beginning of each day to ensure consistency. Graph your findings and look for variations.
Also monitor denied appointment requests. To further assess the effect this may have on the practice, for one week track the number of patients who were unable to get an appointment each day, and the reason for their call.
Finally, schedule a staff meeting to share and discuss your findings. Include the schedulers, nursing staff, and at least one physician – not only share your findings but make sure you create solutions to any access issues you find.