Same-day appointments: Why every doctor should offer them

When making a new appointment, how should a prospective patient react to a months-long wait? Is that a reassuring sign of a great doctor in high demand or a worrisome sign of an access problem, driving away patients and referrals? While long wait times may have once been a status symbol, the cultural shift in medicine has tipped toward patient-driven care. Offering a same-day appointment to all new patients, regardless of urgency, could transform practice operations for the better.

Increasing revenue by offering same-day appointments

Penn Orthopedics Institute at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, an urban outpatient orthopedics clinic in Philadelphia, recently discovered that it could increase revenue and patient satisfaction by offering same-day appointments. This idea was previously unheard of for their non-emergent patients, but facing heavy competition and patients with increasing expectations, the clinic manager innovated a new scheduling model and was surprised at the findings:

  • Same-day appointments attracted a greater payer mix, including 80% commercial insurance

  • 80% of patients who requested an appointment were able to book one

  • Many patients who called the same-day booking hotline happily booked their appointment for the following week instead.

  • The service attracted a more savvy, informed patient that often needed a non-emergent, “big ticket” elective procedure, not care for some sort of trauma

  • The no-show rate dropped to less than 10%

  • It actually improved double-booking rates

Each physician in the practice is able to set aside time in his or her schedule for same-day bookings. The promising results are now spreading to other specialty clinics in the health system.

“It’s less about booking the appointment right away and more about being a marketing hook,” said Fabian Marechal, Practice Manager and Director of Service Line Operations for Orthopedics, who implemented this new appointment scheme. “It’s a bit of a culture change that makes our care delivery more patient-driven.”

Marechal’s team also believes they have reduced patient visits to the ER with this system and are investigating those outcomes as well.

Offering same-day appointments could have some interesting results for providers wishing to provide better patient-centered care. Fortunately, there are existing tools like Patient Fusion that allow patients to request and book appointments online. Newer medical consumers are going to be expecting excellent care, which means easy access and cost-effective medicine. Patients who have non-urgent needs may still not want to wait weeks for an appointment. So if you’re not already offering same-day appointments to all new patients, it may be a service that could improve your patient satisfaction and bottom line.

What do you think? Are you offering same-day appointments? Share your story in the comments below.