For example, group clinics can address multiple patient needs at a single time by a single provider. Diabetes patients often endure many of the same issues and can share experiences and questions through these group clinics, says Goertz. Using this method of care delivery, patients can still get physician face time, and the physician can cut down on repetitive appointments.
Many established practices are already at capacity when it comes to accepting new patients. Thus, newly insured patients may have limited access to physicians or will need to turn to younger physicians.
As the primary care demand increases, Goertz expects younger, newly established doctors to answer the call—even though many are choosing areas other than primary care to practice. "I am an underlying believer in medical students and trainees responding to this cultural shift," he says.
HealthTexas Provider Network's goal is to expand with 30–40 new primary care physicians per year, says Winters, adding that it is finding there are fewer primary care doctors. The lure of a specialty practice with a narrowed variety of problems is appealing to new physicians, he says.
In addition, the new healthcare delivery model will focus more on communications technology.
High-speed Internet access and mobile devices enable doctors to look up facts without having to run down the hall to hit the books. EHRs also allow more patient-physician face time because less time is spent coordinating treatments, Goertz says.
Open-access scheduling is another tool physicians are considering to cut down on their wait times. If implemented correctly, this can be a powerful tool. Practices shouldn't be daunted by blank appointment spaces if they can be filled at the right rate during the day. The process involves monitoring the number of last-minute appointments within a clinic. If there appears to be a trend, setting aside extra time during the day can reduce patient wait times.
No patient wants to wait until their doctor is ready—they want their doctors ready and waiting for them.
Anna Webster, Online Content Coordinator for HealthLeaders Media, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.