Improving Primary Care Access
Daily number of patient requests for appointments.
The wait time for an appointment is the difference between when the demand for that appointment is declared and when the supply is applied. Therefore, when trying to improve delays for appointments, it is important to understand supply as measured by capacity and demand for appointments.
Demand is defined as the daily number of patient requests for appointments, no matter when the appointment is actually scheduled. It can be measured by the individual provider, rolled up to the department level, and even aggregated at the clinic level. It can also be measured by the day, and by the week. Demand data is most useful when compared with supply for appointments data. Demand should not be confused with the number of visits made or appointments completed.
Demand for appointments comes from two sources: internal and external. External demand is generated by patients requesting an appointment, or being referred for an appointment. External sources are phone calls, walk-ins, faxes, emails, and deflections to urgent care. Internal demand is generated by the practice itself in the form of return appointments and planned visits.
Formula: Demand = External Demand + Internal Demand
Data Collection Plan
On at least the same week each month, for each provider, collect data on the daily demand for appointments as described below.
Add together the following components of daily demand by provider:
- Daily appointment requests called in to the office (regardless of the day to which the appointment is actually assigned)
- Patient walk-ins, whether seen today, given a future appointment, or referred elsewhere
- Patients requests for an appointment through other methods such as email, fax, or centralized appointing
- Patient requests for appointments that were not actually scheduled, but sent elsewhere for care (for example, Urgent Care)
- Referrals from other areas such as specialty clinics, emergency rooms, and hospital discharges
- Follow-up appointments or returns generated today