Appointments – getting it right

Feb 12, 2011

Vol 40, (1/2) 20-23

Appointments – getting it right

Andrew Knight MBS, MMedSci(ClinEpid), FRACGP, is Chair, Expert Reference Panel on Access, The Australian Primary Care Collaborative, The Improvement Foundation, Adelaide, South Australia, and a general practitioner, Katoomba, The Department of General Practice, The University of Sydney at Westmead Hospital, Sydney, New South Wales.

Tony Lembke MBS, FRACGP, FACRRM, is Clinical Director, The Australian Primary Care Collaborative, The Improvement Foundation, Adelaide, South Australia, and a general practitioner, Alstonville, New South Wales.

BACKGROUND Only 36% of sick Australians report being able to get an appointment on the day they need it, which is poor by international standards. This delay in care may impact on practice team morale, practice profitability and patient care. The Australian Primary Care Collaboratives Program aims to find better ways to provide primary healthcare services to patients through shared learning, peer support, training, education and support systems.

OBJECTIVE This article shares lessons from the Australian Primary Care Collaboratives Program that can help practices improve appointment scheduling. We describe steps to improving control of your practice scheduling – and your life – by measuring your practice demand, capacity and delay.

DISCUSSION Demand for appointments is finite, predictable and can be shaped. Delay is waste and the enemy of good healthcare. Where delay can be eliminated it should be. By measuring practice demand and capacity, improvements can be designed which will result in reduction in measured delay and patient unmet needs, and increased patient satisfaction.

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AFP Audio: Interview with Dr Andrew Knight

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This article on Measuring the effectiveness of your appointment systems appeared in Australian Family Physician this month.

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