Health systems across the country are increasingly creating centralized access centers in order to improve patient access. We recently partnered with Culbert Healthcare Solutions to deliver a three-part webinar series focusing on the different aspects of transitioning to a centralized patient access model. Missed the webinars? Access them at the links below or check out our key takeaways from the series.
In part one, we explored design considerations, including the scope and phasing of services. In part two, we discussed the technology required to facilitate centralized access. In part three, we covered the change management efforts necessary to enlist the critical support of providers.
Here are the top five takeaways from the series:1. Understanding the importance of centralized access is the first step
- The healthcare industry faces unique access challenges, as evidenced by the 30% increase in appointment wait times since 2014, while 20-40% of appointment capacity remains underutilized.
- High performing centralized access centers can be a step towards resolving these challenges by driving operational efficiency and promoting true “systemness” in a way that better leverages clinical resources across a health system.
2. Centralizing access is not an overnight event
- Much like the journey to become a physician, the journey to centralized access is a multi-year endeavor, often taking anywhere from 18 to 36 months.
- Spending time upfront on strategy, including establishing goals, defining the scope of services, and aligning on budget goes a long way. However, after the access center is up and running it may take another 12-24 months to optimize the operation and realize its full benefits.
3. Weaving technology into access center workflows is critical
- Technology can help improve service levels, enhance the patient experience, and distribute patient demand more evenly, but to be effective, it must be integrated into access center workflows and draw upon accurate provider information.
- The underlying data, whether it be from a scheduling system, credentialing system, or elsewhere, must be consistent across access channels and, ideally, follow the patient throughout each encounter.
4. Identifying an appropriate physician champion early is imperative
- The physician champion’s primary role is to provide a critical voice for physician stakeholders in the transition and subsequently translate the access initiatives into a language that will resonate with his/her colleagues. This person must understand the broader context for the initiative and have the political capital to make it a reality.
- It’s essential to engage the physician champion in the strategy development phase in order to ensure that the person feels like a valued stakeholder and can provide input throughout the process.
5. Focusing on improvements in care can help gain physician buy-in
- Providing quality care and making a difference are among the major intrinsic motivators for most physicians. Access leaders can tap into these motivators by focusing on how centralized access can improve a physician’s individual ability to provide care, for example, by seeing more patients aligned with their clinical expertise.
- It’s important to recognize physician concerns around standardization, something that has been imposed through EHR adoption and quality standard programs. Centralized access will standardize certain parts of the pre- and post-care workflow, but it won’t force physicians to alter how they practice medicine.
Interested in learning even more about how to create and optimize a centralized patient access function? Join us at The Annual Thought Leadership on Access Symposium (ATLAS) 2017, taking place September 19-20 in Boston, MA, and hear from leading health systems in the Shift to Centralized Access breakout track.