35% had to wait for an appointment with a doctor longer than thought reasonable. Scheduling services is a difficult task in any business. Restaurants have numerous employees that have to be scheduled in the face of day to day changes in business and generally do quite well. Airlines schedule flight crews, aircraft and thousands of passengers every day with remarkable success. However, a health care facility that runs on schedule is quite unusual. The providers feel so much is unexpected they can’t follow a tight schedule (but on paper they create a tight schedule). There are many reasons for this phenomenon but no excuse. Schedulers can be tasked to optimize provider time or patient time and usually the former wins.
- For patients: a primary care clinic should be able to see a patient with an urgent problem the same day, a bothersome problem within a few days and all patients who request within a week. If that is not what you find then check out other clinics. Be willing to see any one of the provider team for urgent problems.
- For providers: constantly monitor the delay between appointment time and provider appearance time and adjust the master schedule accordingly. Providers should work as a team. A pool of providers needs to have open slots for urgent visits and other providers need to have uninterrupted time for scheduled visits. The future is with patient self-scheduling, like booking a seat on an airplane – check what is available and book a time slot on the Internet with no phone calls!