Implementation of an open access scheduling system in a residency training program

James G Kennedy, Julian T Hsu
Family Medicine 2003, 35 (9): 666-70

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Open access is one method of improving the quality of clinical practice. Leaving the majority of appointments open to be scheduled the same day allows patients to have control of their access to care. These appointments can be used for all visit types, including physical exams. Our objective was to implement this system to improve efficiency, and patient/provider satisfaction, while maintaining financial profitability.

METHODS: We implemented open access at our academic practice on January 2, 2002. Clinical teams are essential for continuity, and implementation required extensive patient, provider, and staff education. We prebook the first three patient appointments for patients requiring language interpretation, prearranged transportation, and procedures. A phone triage system is still necessary for clinical questions or hesitancy about the system.

RESULTS: Charges and revenues have increased since implementing the new system, as have patient satisfaction, visits per full-time equivalent, and total monthly volumes. Patient satisfaction is improved, as measured by the percent of abandoned phone calls, average time to make appointments, and the number of no-shows. Nursing work, as measured by triage, nursing callbacks, and bumped appointments, has declined markedly.

CONCLUSIONS: Open access has improved revenue, simplified office processes, decreased nursing work, and improved patient satisfaction without any increase in provider time or clinic expansion.

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