NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 25, 2006

Doctors are trying new programs and redesigning their offices to wring more profit out of their practices and fix problems that have long frustrated patients, says the Wall Street Journal.

For example:

  • Flexible "open access" scheduling allows same-day appointments, faster access to routine follow-ups, new-patient appointments and less waiting time in the doctor's office.
  • Complete 24/7 access to the doctor who can always be reached by telephone; in some cases, home visits occur if urgent.
  • Reducing or eliminating office staff means lower overhead and allows doctors to have longer, more meaningful visits.
  • Practice web sites allow patients to download forms and fill them out prior to an office visit or ask non-urgent questions via secure e-mail.
  • Electronic medical records/practice-management software allows patients to receive alerts and reminders about follow-up care.

The new programs borrow lessons from other industries to help doctors work more efficiently, especially those in solo and small group practices who account for the majority of outpatient office visits, says the Journal.

For example:

  • One approach employs calculations used by airlines, hotels and restaurants to predict demand. The idea is that doctors can cut patient waits much the way restaurant chains seat diners and turn over tables efficiently.
  • Others involve more-radical changes, such as "Ideal Micro Practice," which sharply reduces or even eliminates support staff. With this blueprint, doctors rely on electronic health records and practice-management software to quickly dispense with administrative tasks. And they may run their offices solo, greeting patients personally as the come in the door.

Source: Laura Landro, "Cutting Waits at the Doctor's Office," Wall Street Journal, April 19, 2006.

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