6 points that could enhance patient access measurements.
U.S. healthcare consumers demand the same convenience and service that are ubiquitous in retail industries. At the same time, healthcare organizations face rising competition and the need to find new ways to drive revenue growth. To meet these dual challenges, health systems are prioritizing patient access initiatives.
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There are six key patient access metrics healthcare leaders need to assess their current status and drive successful access initiatives.
The pace of merger and acquisition activity in healthcare is unrelenting. In 2017 alone, 115 health systems announced mergers or acquisitions. This activity has multiplied data silos, exacerbating the challenges health systems face in understanding the composition of their provider networks. Studies have suggested that poor data quality has huge revenue effects on most companies, and health systems are not immune.
For patients to access care effectively, health systems need to know their providers. A comprehensive clinical network inventory is the foundation of a successful patient access strategy. Sample provider characteristics include:
The ability to use high-quality provider data to segment the metrics discussed throughout this article is essential.
Patients wait an average of 24 days for an appointment, and this can be even longer for new patients. This runs counter to the goal of improving patient access, but with many networks operating on multiple electronic health record systems, it is often impossible to identify where provider availability exists. Some providers are consistently overbooked, while others remain with open appointment slots. Aggregating enterprise-wide scheduling information and marrying that with a robust provider network inventory helps health systems optimize access to their networks.
Capacity utilization is the ratio of booked time compared to total time available for scheduling appointments. Understanding providers’ schedule density and how that is distributed across appointment types, locations and other provider network attributes is an important component of understanding patient access opportunities and challenges.
In a recent study, 82 percent of health system call centers could not schedule an appointment during the first call. This represents a missed opportunity to convert patient demand into booked appointments and reduce the risk of patients looking for care elsewhere. It’s important to assess conversion across various access points to the system.
Health systems should look closely at the percent of patients interacting with them, across all channels (online, access center, etc.), who go on to book an appointment. Conversion rates are a basic but important measure of the effectiveness of customer engagement and the ability to satisfy customer need.
New patient growth is another important indicator of patient demand conversion, as well as longer-term network financial performance and stability. Potential new patients are likely to touch more than one channel before booking an appointment (e.g., researching online before booking over the phone), and the information presented through these channels needs to be consistent, accurate and current to avoid a disjointed experience.
It’s helpful to look at both the total number of new patients and the percentage of new patients to all patients scheduled. Tracking new patient growth by access channel and segmenting by provider attributes provides the most actionable information.
Studies have found that reducing wait times can significantly reduce no-shows and cancellations, which helps improve clinical outcomes, demand conversion and revenue. Without comprehensive and accessible provider network and scheduling information, long wait times are bound to occur. This runs counter to the goals of helping patients access care more quickly and easily.
Appointment lag time — the time between when an appointment was booked and when the appointment occurs — and third next available appointment — a measure of the time until the third next available slot — are both insightful metrics. Time series and cross-channel analyses can help highlight barriers to access.
While primary care physicians understand that network retention is important, they don’t always refer within network. A major factor contributing to out-of-network referrals is limited network visibility. Arming people responsible for referrals with an inventory of the clinical network is a key component of keeping referrals from leaving the health system unnecessarily.
While referral retention can be difficult to measure, health systems should have a consistent way of tracking referral activity. This may require building new processes to track the percentage of referrals sent to providers in network, as well as changes in that percent over time.
The business saying goes, “What gets measured gets improved.” These six key performance indicators can help jump-start measuring your patient access program by helping assess where you are now and where you need to improve.
Tim Coultas is Senior Director, Product Management at Kyruus, a leader in provider search and scheduling solutions for health systems.
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