How to Improve Ambulatory Access

Every day, there is a shifting of care towards the ambulatory setting. As such, inpatient rates are declining among the patient population. This means that healthcare organizations need to shift resources to make ambulatory care more accessible. Healthcare leaders must work to improve ambulatory access by revamping scheduling and access in both primary and specialty care in order to cater to their patient population needs and to maximize revenue from ambulatory consults. Shifting focus in this direction makes the experience for both patients and healthcare providers smoother and more satisfactory.

Ways to Improve Ambulatory Access

In order to improve ambulatory access, hospital and healthcare leaders must put in place scheduling processes that are efficient and that maximize revenue earned from each ambulatory visit. The goal is to improve productivity, minimize the resources used and to make certain that patients and physicians have a smooth experience. If scheduling processes and ambulatory access are awkward and inconsistent, it can have adverse effects on the organization’s revenue and cause damage to its reputation within the community.

Encourage referrals and simplify service request processes. When physicians outside of your organization send a request for service they are looking for a quick and satisfactory response. When requests for service or referrals are managed unskillfully or when patients are being shuffled around from one department to the next when they call, it is likely that they will find another healthcare provider. Begin to work on a plan to streamline both service requests and referrals.

Keep open lines of communication with referring physicians.  If a provider is referring his or her patients to your hospital for services they do not provide, you should make it easy for them to get update statuses about their patients. Create a system so that referring physicians are kept in the loop. Let them know when the patient is scheduled to come in. Ask how they would like to receive information about the visit. By clearly communicating with the referring physicians you will build a strong relationship, improve the patient experience and work together to improve the patient’s health. Establish connections with other staff members at the referring physician’s office so that if the practice moves or gets acquired, you have a line of communication to ensure that those referrals are not lost.

Make the patient’s experience as easy as possible. This means thinking about their entire experience, from the moment they call to make an appointment to the moment they arrive at the appointment. How long is their wait time? Is the person greeting them respectful and kind? How is each step and each touch handled? Where can they be streamlined and made easier? Every step of this process affects patient satisfaction and the likelihood of a return visit, so it is important to work towards a seamless experience from start to visit.

Work with your IT leaders to analyze demand in order to make sure you are offering the right services at the right time. If you do not have accurate data, you will not be able to drill down and identify the hurdles faced towards improving ambulatory performance. Use technology that will drive at key metrics to track utilization, referrals, conversions, cancellations, wait times and more. Take this information and make decisions driven by that data so that you can optimize your ambulatory services to meet actual demand.

It is also important to collaborate with IT leaders on building communication between departments, patients, and referring physicians through technologies such as EMR (electronic medical record). To truly build a robust communication network, you should also cooperate to ascertain that the various EMRs used in different departments (ambulatory and inpatient) can communicate with each other or to begin to work on the implementation of a global EMR system that will bring the entire organization together.

As you begin to enact these changes towards ambulatory access improvement, create goals and expectations for physicians, executives and frontline staff within the organization. Each person in this process must understand his or her role in guiding this goal and understand the reasons on how this will affect operational efficiency.  This means setting up performance reporting and patient satisfaction monitoring to make sure things are working in the right direction.

How a Strong Ambulatory Services Leader Can Help

Hiring the right ambulatory services leader can make all the difference when you are working to improve ambulatory access. He or she will be able to understand your organization as a whole and begin to take steps to put these initiatives in place.

If you are looking to place the right ambulatory services leader at your healthcare organization, contact the executive search team at Summit Talent Group. We’re a different kind of medical management recruiting firm. Because we work under the boutique model, our team will be fully committed to assisting you with your needs. Our team takes a limited number of engagements. That means that executive search tasks are not delegated to less experienced associates. Our primaries will be with you every step of the way. If you’d like to learn more about how the Summit Talent Group team works, contact us. We look forward to speaking with you.