It is well documented that increasing access to your practice is an essential element of a high functioning, patient centred, primary healthcare system.

The challenge for physicians and primary care teams is determining which scheduling method is best to use for their panel or clinic staff. As Alberta moves towards a central patient attachment registry, there is significant opportunity to learn lessons from others’ experiences in access improvement.

A recent publication in Longwoods Healthcare Quarterly describes the lessons learned by a Canadian Forces primary care clinic in their experience implementing an advanced access scheduling methodology in their practice. The drivers for their change from a ‘carve-out’ scheduling model (one often used by primary care practices in Alberta) are similar to those experienced by  clinics who approach AIM to support changes in their practice. These include:

  • Lack of clerical and administrative support with high staff turnover
  • Staff burnout
  • Patent complaints
  • Accessibility

In this case where the care team was responsible for around 2,000 patients, the military clinic identified six key lessons for any practice undertaking access improvement endeavours. These lessons illustrate the key areas where the AIM team provides support for clinical improvement teams.  These key lessons include:

  • Maintain a stable base of physicians
  • Identify and correct roster mismatches
  • Eliminate booked appointment backlog prior to implementation
  • Put required information systems in place before the change
  • Develop a comprehensive understanding of patient demand as this is critical to implementing an appropriate scheduler
  • Planning spread using a robust communication campaign is a vital element of success

Much like that of other primary care teams in Alberta and across North America, implementing advanced access scheduling has yielded tangible benefits for this CAF primary care team. The drivers, barriers and lessons learned associated with the change process are not unique to any practice under any physician payment model. The AIM team is experienced and has the expertise to support your clinical team through any changes you might undertake. If you want to explore the possibilities with someone from AIM further, contact us at info.aim@ahs.ca .