Not long ago, Gozio became a partner of the Patient Access Collaborative (PAC). This group is an invitation-only community that consists of leaders from academic health systems and children’s hospitals across the nation. Collectively, one out of every four outpatient encounters in the United States are performed by one of the PAC members today. So, the group has deep insight into the issues around patient access and is actively looking at ways to solve those challenges.
The other day, the founder of PAC and renowned author and speaker, Elizabeth Woodcock, DrPH, MBA, FACMPE, CPC, shared her latest insights on what patient access really means in healthcare today. The presentation was so riveting, we asked if we could share a few of the things she talked about in a short blog post.
First and foremost, Elizabeth pointed out that for many who have been in the industry a long time, they may immediately think of patient access as hospital admissions. However, the role of patient access has evolved in recent years. Today, patient access is largely led by the ambulatory side, bringing patients in at all levels of ambulatory care and funneling them into the acute side of the organization.
Another myth she busted in the presentation was that patient access is primarily call center management. Elizabeth sees patient access as having five focus areas: patient engagement, capacity management, digital transformation, contact center, and ambulatory operations.
During her presentation, Elizabeth called out several important things about patient access in the ambulatory space:
The ambulatory clinics see 30-40 times as many visits as the acute bed towers.
Patients are moved into the bed towers by the ambulatory experience.
It is in the ambulatory setting where patients are often making the choice to engage with a system.
Patient access is the front door, so they are heavily focused on the digital front door experience.
Improving access is such an opportunity because it has such a huge impact.
People who work in access are thinking about the bigger strategy about the pipeline into the system and how to sustain access.
One of the biggest challenges in patient access is that the greatest asset is providers’ time, and this asset is perishable. The demand for it is also unpredictable. A patient often doesn't know when he or she will need care. Post-COVID, supply and demand are very skewed with heavy demand and not enough supply. Patients are waiting, on average, about three weeks for an appointment. But there is an opportunity to more effectively utilize the resource of providers’ time because the data shows that only 80% of their time is actually utilized.
So, the goal of PAC, its members, and the industry partners, is to continue to look for ways to schedule patients more effectively—and utilize that provider time more efficiently. And it’s exciting to think about how better access to real time electronic scheduling through a mobile app can impact that. Or how an AI Assistant like the one from Hyro can help patients find just the appointment they need. While many challenges still lie ahead, the future of patient access is full of exciting possibilities.