Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Access is Key in Patient Engagement

By: Tammie Lunceford, Healthcare Consultant at Warren Averett LLC.

Patient satisfaction is an ever growing aspect of medical service in the last few years. Physicians are acutely aware of competition in many forms; urgent care, Uber medicine, and telemedicine to mention a few. Even in rural areas, physicians complain that their patients will not call to schedule with them when they are sick because it is simply too easy to go the urgent care, close by. Recent radio advertisements reveal a telemedicine product designed to treat twenty common ailments without leaving home. Even if you need to see a healthcare provider face to face, Uber medicine will send someone to your home with the personal touch of the 1950’s. Busy patients simply want to receive treatment fast and spend their time on other aspects of life. Basically, patients want healthcare to be as easy as picking up their dry cleaning.

What does this mean for physicians in private practice? It means we can’t stop the way medicine is changing so we must make adjustments to keep the patient relationship strong. Unless you are a specialist known for your expertise, you may have to revise your schedule to accommodate immediate access. Consider a mid-level provider to accommodate walk-in or patients who call to be seen. Train your staff to meet the patient’s needs and to monitor no shows. How many patients who booked appointments today, also no showed today? If they could be seen more conveniently elsewhere, they went elsewhere! Another way to meet the needs of the patient is to stagger staff and providers during lunch so patients can be seen on their lunch hour. You can stagger the physician and the mid-level for early and late access. Be sure to market your changes so patients will know you are available.

I recently reviewed physician schedules to find new patients could only be seen during one appointment slot a day, one specific time of the day. We must adopt open access scheduling to meet the needs of busy professionals, working moms, etc. The only decision should be the number of patients your office can accommodate each day, then let the schedule fill. Your referring physicians will appreciate your flexibility. Your patients will recommend you to their friends.

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