Imagine a perfectly organised day in your general practice. You arrive to see a third of your appointments still available. They fill as people ring during the day. Receptionists are able to say ‘yes’. Patients don’t book long in advance because experience tells them they will get an appointment today if they need it. There are no forgetful ‘did not attends’. Your day is an interesting mix of problems – some chronic (booked in advance) and some acute (rang today). Patients can plan around transport and work. You run on time because no-one is squeezed in. You have time to eat and debrief. Your message book is almost empty because everyone had their urgent needs met at their appointment. You are ‘down the drive by half past five’: patients happy, results checked and inbox emptied.
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.
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.
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
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