In my last blog entry I discussed idealism and it’s place in healthcare. It can be a tough sell sometimes without concrete examples. For the next series of blogs I hope to show how idealism translates across service, quality, and cost in a patient-centered organization.
Let’s begin with patient access to care. What is access? Access, at it’s core, is about putting the patients' needs first. The ultimate goal is to provide patients the choice of appointment on the day they want to be seen. This can be incredibly scary to an organization that feels like it’s drowning under patient demand. Other organizations may have a completely different problem…they need to fill schedules and they don’t have enough demand…nice problem to have…right? Both are completely real concerns. The good news is that demand is not infinite and you can shape your demand to keep your schedules full.
Patients want to be able to see their doctor without having to have to jump through hoops or having to prove that they are really sick. Seems reasonable…remember they are paying for this service. Organizations on the other hand want to balance numerous competing priorities around service, quality, cost of delivering care and revenue. They also want to be able to keep staff happy and not overwhelm them with patient demand. Through the application of Advanced Access principles you can meet the patients’ needs and the organization’s goals.
Access is a math problem with a few variables: Supply, Demand, and Backlog. All 3 variables, if not correctly addressed and balanced in the equation, create delays in care. Delays = Risk to the patient and Cost to the organization. To overcome this, we need to shift our paradigm. We need to shift from protecting today and pushing work to tomorrow to protecting tomorrow by pulling work into day.
The leverage points to reducing delay and improving access include:
Balancing of supply and demand daily
Reduction of backlog
Decreasing appointment types
Developing contingency plans
Reducing demand for visits
By working on the above, we are able to achieve balance of supply, demand and backlog, reduce rework and increase satisfaction for staff and patients.
This seems very patient-centered and perhaps idealistic, but how does it save money? Well, a number of studies have shown a large correlation between patient satisfaction and patient retention. In fact, patients are six times more likely to leave a practice if their access needs are not met! The savings come in maintaining a stable and healthy population of patients without having to bring on new patients and reinvest time to manage their care and achieve control of their health conditions.
Achieving the above balance ultimately puts the patient first, but it also puts an organization on the path to long-term sustained success in patient retention, financial stability and staff satisfaction. Who said there is no room for idealism in healthcare?