Systems engineering, plus the perspectives of patients and families, will improve care scheduling and delivery, according to a major new report published by the U.S. National Academies of Sciences.

The report, Transforming Health Care Scheduling and Access: Getting to Now, identifies best practices for making significant improvements in access and system-level change. It makes recommendations for principles and practices to improve access by promoting efficient scheduling. The NAS feels the study will be a valuable resource for practitioners to progress toward a more patient-focused “How can we help you today?” culture.

The full report can be downloaded as a PDF for free at the National Academies Press.

According to the 154-page report, long waits for treatment are a function of the disjointed manner in which most health systems have evolved to accommodate the needs and the desires of doctors and administrators, rather than those of patients. The result is a health care system that deploys its most valuable resource–highly trained personnel–inefficiently, leading to an unnecessary imbalance between the demand for appointments and the supply of open appointments. This study makes the case that by using the techniques of systems engineering, new approaches to management, and increased patient and family involvement, the current health care system can move forward to one with greater focus on the preferences of patients to provide convenient, efficient, and excellent health care without the need for costly investment.