Allegheny Health Network announced it is launching same-day appointment services for primary care and some specialties starting on Monday, Jan. 23.
AHN medical director for clinical access Elie Aoun said the change is part of a broader effort to make care more “patient-centered.”
“One of the biggest pet peeves or frustrations with health care is the amount of time it sometimes can take to get in to be seen,” he said.
Kenyokee Crowell, AHN’s senior vice president of clinical access, said she did not have numbers about average wait times for appointments with the network’s doctors. But according to a 2013 survey of doctors' offices in 15 major metropolitan areas across the country, wait times for appointments averaged around 18.5 days.
“When people aren’t feeling well or perhaps they’ve put something off or they have some anxiety because they have a new diagnosis, there’s just really no substitute for that patient to be able to call and get in with a physician and start receiving some answers and start working through that health care journey immediately,” Crowell said.
Patients who call to make an appointment before 11 a.m. will be offered same-day appointments. People who call later in the day might still be able to get same-day appointments, pending availability.
Ross Swanson, executive vice president at Pittsburgh-based health care consulting for Corazon, Inc., said the change reflects shifting attitudes among health care consumers. He said there used to be an assumption that the harder it was to make an appointment with a doctor, the better that doctor was.
“Now there is this demand from the consumer that’s saying, ‘We don’t care who the provider’s name is and how many (people they’ve seen), I want to get seen on my time because I have a busy schedule,’” Swanson said.
Swanson noted that Cleveland Clinic offers same-day appointments, as do other large health care networks on the east and west coasts. Swanson said he expects the trend to continue.
UPMC, which is AHN’s main competitor in the Pittsburgh region, does not currently offer same-day appointments across the board in the way that AHN is proposing.
However, UPMC spokesperson Susan Manko said UPMC is able to see patients on short notice when circumstances require, at many clinics, urgent care centers and pediatric express locations.
“Our clinical care programs have the highest volumes in the area, without promoting marketing-driven promises that don’t necessarily result in the highest-quality care or best patient satisfaction,” Manko said.
Swanson said his company has consulted with other providers that have implemented same-day appointments with success, including an orthopedic surgery practice in eastern Pennsylvania.
“They were absolutely able to pull this off where they were not only seeing patients sooner, often time (patients) would call that same-day line but then they themselves were willing to have the appointment scheduled out within two, three or four days,” he said.
Swanson said in that case, the change did result in greater patient satisfaction.
AHN notes that “certain clinical needs could result in an exception to the same-day commitment” and that some insurance policy might not cover same-day appointments without pre-authorization.
(Photo credit: Andrew Malone via Flickr)