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Red Flags You Have a Patient Access Problem

Patient Access Problem and Solution

Patient access” is a health system’s ability to ensure that patients can obtain care from the right provider who can address their clinical needs while also meeting important logistical requirements and personal preferences. Patient access challenges can stem from difficulties in scheduling, a poorly designed website, and an inability to route patients to providers effectively – among other things. Read on to learn five red flags that indicate your patients may be struggling to access timely and effective care.

These red flags are based on Johanna Epstein’s presentation (Culbert Healthcare Solutions) as part of our webinar, Centralizing Patient Access: Design Considerations.

#1: Poor Patient Experience Survey Results

Typically, patient experience surveys ask questions that cover four main topics: access to care, provider communication, quality of care, and the patient’s overall willingness to recommend the provider to others. Consistently poor patient experience survey results related to the ease of making an appointment are the most explicit signal that you have a patient access problem. If your organization is already administering CAHPS or another patient experience survey, take advantage of it by parsing out the patient access questions to create your own composite patient access score.

#2: High Call Abandonment Rate

The average time to complete a scheduling call in the U.S. healthcare industry is 8.1 minutes, compared to a cross-industry average of 3.7 minutes.1 Meanwhile, 63% of all patient calls must be transferred in order to book an appointment, compared to a cross-industry average of a mere 5.7%.2 Long call times, high rates of transferring calls, and a poor overall call experience (stemming from outdated and siloed information systems) result in high rates of caller abandonment. Health systems should aim for less than 2% call abandonment rate in their access center, with anything above 5% a clear red flag that frustrated patients may be seeking care elsewhere.

#3: Low Website Conversion

53% of patients research healthcare provider information online using search engines, review sites, and health system Find-a-Provider search tools. Health system websites that are not optimized to convert web traffic into appointments through a seamless online booking experience will inevitably struggle with low website traffic conversion. If you’re not already offering online scheduling, develop a plan to do so, especially since 25% of consumers prefer to book online, and that number shoots up to 40% for millennials. Make sure your online booking process is fast, easy, and secure–or you risk patients leaving your website and potentially seeking care at another health system.   

#4: Provider Revenue Under Goals

Provider revenue that doesn’t meet expectations is often a symptom of an access problem. In order to diagnose the root cause of the issue, it’s important to build a process for evaluating provider revenue that looks at:

  • Provider schedule density - low or uneven schedule density among providers is a sign you have a problem distributing patient demand efficiently
  • Provider Work Relative Value Units (“wRVUs”) - wRVU performance that below benchmarks can indicate that specialists are seeing the wrong types of patients (e.g., low acuity cases) and that providers are not practicing at the “top of their license”
  • Rates of appointment cancellation & no-shows - high rates of cancellation or no-shows can be an indication that schedulers are not adequately accounting for patient preferences and logistics during the initial booking process.

#5: Long Appointment Wait Times

The average wait time for a new patient appointment ranges from 24-32 days. If your average wait time exceeds this threshold, you have a patient access problem that may be due to either an inability to identify open appointments and efficiently route patients to them, or to true coverage gaps within the network. One way to distinguish the cause of the unmet demand is to assess your provider network. For example, are certain provider panels open and others closed? Do wait times vary by specialty or region? Answering such questions can play a big role in reducing wait times and eventually helping to increase patient loyalty and improve provider satisfaction.

Check out our resource center for more information about enhancing patient access.

1Accenture - Why First Impressions Matter, 2013
2Accenture - Why First Impressions Matter, 2013

Topics: Patient Experience Patient Access Patient Engagement Patient-Provider Matching