February 06, 2019
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‘Simple, inexpensive’ intervention improves patient punctuality

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Jed Cowdell
Jed Colt Cowdell

Adjusting the patient scheduling process improved patient punctuality as well as patient and provider satisfaction, according to findings recently published in Quality Management in Health Care.

“As health care providers we need to be constantly evaluating our practice and looking for ways to optimize flow (ie, minimize waste) and hopefully improve patient safety,” Jed Colt Cowdell, MD, MBA, of the division of community internal medicine, Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville Florida, told Healio Primary Care Today.

Thus, researchers tried two “simple and inexpensive” interventions to improve patient punctuality. In the first, patients were called the day before their appointment and reminded to arrive 15 minutes before their appointment. In the second, patients were told their appointment time was 15 minutes prior to what the physician had in his or her personal calendar.

Researchers found with the first intervention, 25 of 44 patients (57%) arrived 15 minutes early based on their check-in time. With the second intervention, 153 of 182 patients (84%) arrived 15 minutes before the time the physician had in his or her personal calendar — a 20% improvement vs. patient punctuality prior to study initiation.

They also found that after 3 months of “widespread implementation” of the second intervention, 85% of patients were punctual and 79% were ready for the physician on time, leading researchers to conclude this intervention had a more positive outcome. The first approach was not continued because it did not meet pre-established criteria for proceeding.

Cowdell acknowledged the second intervention was not without its professional hiccups.

“There was some confusion with implementation of the second intervention as this was a system change that involved multiple groups. Thus, despite our best efforts not everybody was on the same page at first. It took multiple rounds of communication to providers, schedulers and patients until it became the new standard,” he said in the interview.

Waiting Room 
Adjusting the patient scheduling process improved patient punctuality as well as patient and provider satisfaction, according to findings recently published in Quality Management in Health Care.
Source:Shutterstock

Cowdell added that though change in long standing office procedures can be difficult, sometimes it is worth the risk.

“I understand that change is hard, but health care is evolving at a rapid pace and if providers want to exceed the needs of their patients while also meeting the requirements of third-party payers then it may be helpful to reflect on their current practice and see if there are opportunities to optimize their workflows. If they do decide to make a change, I would utilize the tools taught in quality improvement to give themselves the best opportunity for success,” he said. – by Janel Miller

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.