Open access scheduling at the doctor's office

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
July 14, 2010

2 thoughts on “Open access scheduling at the doctor's office”

  1. This seems like a great idea to me, at least intuitively. Different patients have different schedules, so it makes sense that some would benefit from future appointments, while others may do better with same-day treatment.

  2. Many years ago, open access was the norm. To see your GP, you’d just head to his office, as early as possible to beat the crowd. He’d start seeing people and just work till he was done.

    The appointment system was an innovation introduced and then widely adopted as an improvement on ‘open access.’

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