I’m quoted in the Boston Globe today (A new practice: The doctor will see you today) on open access scheduling. (I’m all the way down at the bottom of the article.)
Open access is one of my favorite innovations because it improves customer service and quality levels. As we add patients to the system open access provides a way to preserve or improve access to the physician. It’s better—in my view—than other solutions such as using more mid-level practitioners and trying to boost the total number of doctors.
Open access means seeing today’s patients today rather than forcing them into a slot far in the future or trying to squeeze them in to a crammed schedule. The example given in the Globe article is a more extreme version than what I’m used to. I’m not sure such a radical shift to open access is optimal. It might be best to preserve a lower percentage of slots for same-day access rather than forcing folks in today who’d prefer to wait a bit!
What’s required to make open access work?
- Working overtime to chip away at the existing backlog (otherwise there’s no free time to offer up)
- Varying number of hours worked per day to accommodate fluctuating demand
- Having the right sized patient panel—something that’s somewhat hard to assess in advance, since the true demand is unknown (offices usually just know how far out they are scheduling)
Why does it work?
- There’s a high no-show rate from appointments made weeks or months in advance
David E. Williams is co-founder of MedPharma Partners LLC, strategy consultant in technology enabled health care services, pharma, biotech, and medical devices. Formerly with BCG and LEK. He blogs regularly at Health Business Blog, where this post first appeared.