3 ways providers can increase access to care

If health systems can harness the "customer orientation of a five-star hotel and the operational discipline of a factory floor," they can improve access to care and in turn boost patient satisfaction and the organization's profitability, a Health Affairs blog post suggests.

The driving force behind current care access issues is a mismatch between a provider's true capacity and patient demand, authors Pooja Kumar, M.D., Vaneesh Soni, M.D., and Saum Sutaria, M.D., who all work for McKinsey & Company, say. It leads to organizations not making full use of their physicians' time and long wait times and appointment backlogs. To solve this problem leaders must overhaul their organizations, according to the post. These steps include: 

Streamline scheduling. This means that patients must get a choice in appointment times and clinicians, and have the ability to schedule appointments after standard business hours and on weekends, the post says. Patients must also be able to make an appointment by phone or online, as well as receive accurate advice on transportation and arrival procedures.

Improve the care and after-care experience. A commitment to great customer service should not stop with the appointment process. Providers must ensure patients have received the necessary diagnostic testing before arriving at their appointments, and the registration process must be "efficient and seamless," according to the post. Not only must physicians promptly see patients, but clinicians must also coordinate effective discharge instructions and follow-up care.

Use physician resources wisely. The post authors recommend that health systems strategically overbook appointments to make up for lost productivity associated with cancellations and no-shows. Organizations can also cut down on no-shows by coordinating well-timed reminders through text message, email and/or phone calls. Healthcare organizations may also want to standardize their schedule templates to ensure easier scheduling and better care coordination, the post says.

Access to care is a particularly salient issue for hospital super-users, whose often-complex medical conditions make them both expensive and challenging to treat, FierceHealthcare has reported. But many healthcare organizations have risen to the challenge by expanding the role of non-physician practitioners, using group medical appointments for patients with similar conditions, and even offering an "access promise" to handle a certain number of appointment requests within 48 hours, according to FiercePracticeManagement.

To learn more:
- read the post