How practices can accommodate more patients

Physician practice feeling crowded? Consider these steps to ease congestion and improve access.

Physician practices have found ways to accommodate more patients, heading off dire predictions about the Affordable Care Act.

Some warned that there would be too few primary care doctors to meet the surge in appointment requests from the newly insured. But that didn't happen, writes Austin Frakt, a health economist, in The New York Times.

So how are doctors making room for more patients?

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RELATED: Study: ACA improved Medicaid patients' primary care access

One way is to book appointment requests further out, extending wait times. While wait times increased under the ACA, Medicaid patients had an easier time getting appointments. In fact, more patients with Medicaid have been able to schedule appointments with primary care physicians since the ACA took effect, a study released earlier this year found.

RELATED: Healthcare changes lead to an increasingly unhappy workplace in federally qualified health centers

The ACA also funded more federally qualified health centers, which operate in low-income areas and serve many Medicaid enrollees. However, a surge in patients for many clinics may have a downside: increasingly dissatisfied clinicians and staff.

The trend towards consolidation into larger organizations, which may better manage patients, may also have absorbed some of the increased demand for appointments, said University of Pennsylvania health economist Daniel Polsky, who led the study on Medicaid patients access to care.

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