It’s time for a Patient Access Check-Up: 5 Strategies for 2016

As 2015 winds down, and plans for 2016 ramp up, one challenge that healthcare systems are faced with is providing effective, efficient access to care.  That means making sure that all patients get the right care, from the right provider, in the right place, at the right time.

Caregivers know what symptoms to look for when a patient isn’t feeling well, but what are the symptoms that a health system should be aware of when they have a case of “patient access issues”?

Common symptoms may include:


  • Long emergency department wait times, divert hours, and excessive boarding times
  • Transfer admissions are declining and transfer declinations are increasing
  • Request-to-admit times and Left Without Being Seen numbers are on the rise because of a fragmented patient admit process
  • Chronic delays, hold times, and schedule changes lead to decreases in physician and caregiver satisfaction
  • Decreasing HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) scores because of significant wait times for services and less-than-effective communication between caregivers
  • Existing capacity never seems to adequately sync up with patient volumes; or worse, empty beds lead to facility shut-downs and patients are referred to other facilities for care

These access challenges, and more, are all rooted in a handful of causes—organizational silos, lack of continuity across care settings, and a lack of real-time operational visibility.  In 2016,  we’ll see health systems focus more aggressively than ever before on addressing these root causes, improving patient care and ensuring sustainability.

Here are the top five integrated strategies TeleTracking foresees health systems using to help transform access to care in 2016 and beyond:

  1. Working smarter at engaging and aligning community physicians—When these two factors come together, continuity of care across different care settings becomes much easier —resulting in a more positive patient journey and better outcomes. Operations become more efficient when care transitions are simple and transparent to all caregiversin real-time. Physician engagement and community alignment are critical success factors to a health system’s growth and standing in the community.  You may be interested in learning more about TeleTracking’s Community Access™ Portal application – click here to download the datasheet.
  2. Centralizing patient placement, system-wide—This is the foundation from which to build substantial efficiency improvements—making it possible to create capacity and drive additional patient volume. Centralizing patient placement offers visibility into how patient demand and bed supply are syncing up across all facilities—so patient access managers can quickly connect the necessary dots for placing patients in the right care setting and in the right bed, as well as rapidly see and address the problem areas that are causing back-ups and hindering timely access to care.
  3. Improving and streamlining access for under served populations—Helping the people who need it most goes hand-in-hand with the first two strategies. Over the long-term, improving service to these populations will improve health across the board, and help reduce patient use of the emergency department as a doctor’s office for non-emergent conditions. For many health systems pursuing this strategic access initiative, streamlining and strengthening behavioral health services and intake workflows are the first priorities.
  4. Improving staff utilization and satisfaction—In order for health systems to provide patients with timely access to top-quality care, they need to attract and retain high-caliber teams—and then provide that talent with a setting that enables them to focus on patient care. Operational improvements that optimize staff utilization and satisfaction include streamlining workflows and automating routine and time-consuming tasks—such as real-time status reporting and communication for stakeholders in patient access workflows. When patient access and care teams are freed of the burden of constantly having to track down the real-time status of discharges, beds, equipment, and waiting patients, both patient outcomes and staff satisfaction improve.
  5. Securing enterprise visibility for continual patient access transformation—Enterprise-level data and metrics—both historical and real-time—give health system leaders concrete information they can rely upon to make strategic decisions for better patient access, health system growth and long-term sustainability. Examples of these access-related metrics include:
    • inbound and outbound referral volume by geography
    • transfer declines by reason and denial details
    • top referring physicians
    • top payer mix and payer mix by referring facility

The data tells a powerful story – once you can clearly see what’s happening, you can focus on the changes that make a significant and lasting difference for patients, staff, and the system as a whole.

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