Apart from some technology, which we will get into later, here are some ideas you can implement today to help you improve patients access without burdening your staff (or patients).
Leave 30-50% of the schedule open every day for patients who call in. Once the day fills up, either book people out or have people call in the next day.
Upside: this allows sick patients and, when combined with good templating, newer patients to get in sooner. It will decrease patient no-shows since patients are waiting less.
Downside: studies of open access find that it is quite taxing on the staff. Anecdotally, we’ve found that practices who do this, often oversimplify their appointment types, resulting in heavy disorganization that they have to later correct. Fundamentally this decreases patient access for anyone who schedules ahead, and rewards/prioritizes same day appointments. This also puts more revenue at risk, same day calls need doesn’t match open appointments, otherwise you will have large fluctuations in your revenue at risk.
Any patient who is booked out far for a follow-up is seen earlier via telehealth.
Upside: Faster access to care for patients
Downside: it’s expensive and requires incredible coordination between staff and technology. We have not seen any group do this at scale.
The theory is simple, if you have a waitlist, hire more providers – both mid-levels and MDs.
Upside: You shorten the wait!
Downside: Hiring more providers isn’t always an option and doesn’t account for patient preference. There is a decades old shortage of physicians and nurses and in many geographic areas it can be tough to attract talent. Furthermore, hiring more providers means adding more real estate which can be costly and require more management, leading to a slippery slope.
OnDemand Schedule Management
Automated services which allow you embrace the fluid nature of your schedule. These solutions allow you to offer earlier appointments to clinically eligible patients. Depending on the solution you will find these operate with very little to no human components (ie your staff does nothing).
Upside: No waitlist or change to staff workflow. More patients brought in earlier and fuller schedules. Your at risk revenue is reduced.
Downside: IT procurement processes can be time consuming.