Improving access is all about getting supply and demand in equilibrium, which means that there is no backlog of appointments and no delay between when the demand is initiated and when the service is delivered. The gap between supply and demand not only contributes to a delay in meeting patients’ needs, but it can also be expensive and generate waste in the system.
The experience of many health care organizations demonstrates that demand is not really insatiable, but actually predictable. In fact, the demand for any kind of service — appointment, advice, or message to a provider — can be predicted accurately based on the population, the scope of the provider practice and, over time, the particular practice style of each provider. Periods of high or low demand can be anticipated, based on an analysis of demand data collected on all requests coming into the system. An improved access system uses these predictions as the framework to match its supply to the needs of a population of patients for any specific service.