By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
So…here’s a crazy idea for medical marketing.
What if a medical office were to offer “same day appointments?” It’s an innovative notion, but a “patient driven” appointment just might be popular and become a unique point of differentiation.
Of course we’re being facetious with that last bit. It turns out, according to a recent study, offices that offer same-day or next-day appointments reduce no-shows and increase timeliness.
The study, Advanced Access Scheduling Outcomes (Archives of Internal Medicine) did not examine the marketing benefits and advantages. But “convenience” has long had a strong appeal for those professions, practices and locations that promote the availability of immediate appointments.
We’re not talking about urgent care or walk-in clinics. This is Advanced (or “open”) Access scheduling that has been around for about a decade and is, according to Medscape, “widely adopted in the United Kingdom, the US Veterans Health Administration, and among some US [primary care] private practices.
“Under the system, physician offices attempt to offer appointments on the day a patient calls or within 24 hours. It contrasts with traditional systems, in which appointments may be made well in advance, leading to long wait times and possibly increasing the frequency of missed appointments.”
The study concludes that Advanced Access scheduling not only reduces wait time, but led to a significant reduction in no-show rates where the baseline was 15% or greater. Trends in patient satisfaction, however, varied.
Additional research was proposed to understand if Advanced Access scheduling would demonstrate improvements other measures of Quality, such as the Institute of Medicine’s The Six Domains of Health Care Quality. These are: Safe, Effective, Patient-Centered, Timely, Efficient and Equitable.
Waiting for routine appointments, Medscape says, “have been associated with negative health outcomes and increased emergency room crowding.” In our experience, timeliness is important to patient satisfaction, and more flexible, patient-driven scheduling would be popular with patients and a distinct healthcare marketing advantage.