The main problem that everyone is experiencing in this clinic is the high rate of no-shows. It would be very easy to simply label the clinics patients non-compliant. But is it so? As health care providers, the burden is on us to find the most effective ways to serve our patient population. One possible approach to the problem at hand is to conduct a survey in an attempt to identify some specific reasons that may be contributing to such a high percentage of no-shows.
When patients are surveyed about their reasons for not coming to appointments, a few common reasons may emerge:
A sick patient waited so long to be seen that she got better and didnt need the visit or got worse and had to go to the emergency room.
A patient did not have a phone, or his phone number changed, so he never received the reminder message the day before the appointment.
A patient showed up for the appointment, but at the wrong date or time. He misunderstood because of a language barrier.
A patient was afraid to take time off work and risk losing her job. It would have been much easier for her to make an evening or weekend appointment.
How should you address this flurry of concerns? You can begin by clearing away the backlog of appointments. One possible solution is a system called Open Access. This system allows patients to schedule appointments, even for routine well care, on the same day usually with their own physicians. This approach has cascading benefits. For instance, if visits are scheduled on the same day, theres no need to make phone call reminders, eliminating the problem of patients not having phones or not receiving the messages. Further, if patients can choose a convenient time to visit (including evening and weekend hours when they are more likely to be off from work), they eliminate the risk of losing their jobs.
There are a number of ways to get this clinic, currently swamped, to a point where it offers Open Access. This work is not easy and the transition period is often quite challenging. Physicians can provide more services during each visit (even if it means that the visits are somewhat longer), reducing the need for the patients to return. The staff can also spend a set period of time perhaps four to eight weeks working through the backlog of patients and opening up the schedule for same-day appointments. This may lead to a significant patient overload, so there may be a need for overtime work and creative staffing until the backlog is cleared out (i.e., staff lunches may be staggered so that appointments are available at lunchtime). The hope is that patients will receive timely care, that they will be more likely to be seen by their own doctors instead of the most available physician, and that they will be more likely to avoid going to the emergency room for issues that can easily be handled in an outpatient clinic setting.
In addition to making appointment schedules more conducive to patient needs, other ways to serve patients better involve creating an environment more welcoming to the patients and more inclusive of the various cultures, languages, and issues of the various patient populations. There need to be some staff members who can speak the main languages of the patients and who are representative of the diversity of the patients. There should be efforts to educate staff members about the various cultural beliefs of different patient populations. If patients perceive that they can trust the staff and be open with them, they are more likely to comply with the treatment regimens and to make follow-up appointments. Thus, their medical problems are more likely to be successfully diagnosed and managed.
Respond to the following questions in 2-3 paragraphs each. Be sure to cite any references that you utilize appropriately