Advanced access appointments
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Advanced Access Appointments. Paul Cano MD, FCFP Smithville Family Health Team May 6, 2011. Smithville Family Health Team. 8 family physicians (5.5 FTE) Serves a rural area of West Lincoln Township ~ 10000 patients All MD’s serve at WLMH in Grimsby Teaching practice (McMaster).

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Advanced Access Appointments

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Advanced access appointments

Advanced Access Appointments

Paul Cano MD, FCFP

Smithville Family Health Team

May 6, 2011

Smithville family health team

Smithville Family Health Team

  • 8 family physicians (5.5 FTE)

  • Serves a rural area of West Lincoln Township

  • ~ 10000 patients

  • All MD’s serve at WLMH in Grimsby

  • Teaching practice (McMaster)

Smithville family health team1

Smithville Family Health Team


  • 6 RN/RPN, 3 FTE

  • 6 Secretaries, 4 FTE

  • 1 Office Manager

  • 4 Scanning, 2 FTE

  • IT support, 1 FTE

  • Clean/stock ½ FTE

    FHT:2 RN’s, 2 NP’s, 2 MH, 1 Dietician, 1 admin,

    ½ secretary

The problem

The Problem…

Waiting times for appointments for:

  • today’s appointments after they fill up (“Call tomorrow at 9AM…”)

  • urgent appts to see pts own FP (“I don’t have anything with Dr. Cano for 2 weeks, but I can offer you …’)

  • physicals (“Dr. Cano is booking 3 months from now”)

The problem1

The Problem…

Canada is the worst country in the Commonwealth for being able to get an appointment in the next 24 hours (39% vs. 50-75%)

The problem compounds

The Problem compounds …

  • Receptionists are forced to ‘triage’ the problem

  • They spend 5 times longer on the phone with the patient

  • ‘Queue jumping’ – pts learn what to do to get in quicker (crying, suicidal, short of breath)

  • Pts get care elsewhere in meantime, then 50% see you anyway (“I kept this appt because ...”, then you get to review the other visits)

  • Seeing pts that are not your own results in longer visits

  • No shows when the appt finally comes around

Complexity of schedule

Complexity of Schedule

  • We had several different appointment types — Physicals, WBV/PN, Urgent, ER

  • We had multiple rules about these appointment types:

  • E.g. 2 physicals / half day, except not 2 female physicals as they generally take longer, except if the female is younger

  • The schedule worked well some days if … I or my secretary or my nurse looked ahead and rearranged a future day where the appts didn’t look like a good mix, calling patients to change their times

What is advanced access

What Is Advanced Access?

  • Also called ‘Open Access’

  • A method of adding capacity to a practice by not booking ahead

  • In it’s pure form, patients call and are seen the same day

Where did it come from

Where Did it Come From?

  • Pioneered by Dr. Mark Murray, a family physician with Kaiser Permanente in California

  • Taken from Best Practice in Industry

  • Used in HMO’s to increase # of patients that can be served without increasing staff

The philosophy

The Philosophy…

  • Do Today’s Work Today

  • Although demand for services is variable, it is also predictable

  • Don’t make things more complex than they need to be

Reduce appointment types

Reduce Appointment Types

With the goal to do today's work today, the distinction between urgent and routine is no longer necessary. The only distinctions between appointment types needed are:

  • Provider is present vs. provider is absent

  • A short appointment type for return visits

  • A long appointment type for physicals and new pts

Reduce appointment types1

Reduce Appointment Types

  • When the provider is present the patient is seen

  • When the provider is absent the patient is offered the choice of an appointment the next time the provider is present or today with another care team member

  • All other special appointment types, such as for disease entity or physicals by age groups, can be eliminated.

  • Reducing appointment types simplifies telephone appointment triage, allows more flexibility for patients, and reduces queuing

Commit to doing today s work today

Commit to Doing Today’s Work Today

  • In clinics with this system, the only appointments that are on the books at the beginning of each day are the return appointments that were generated by physician discretion or patient preference on a previous day

  • There are no "frozen" or held appointment slots, as this provides maximum flexibility in the system to absorb daily demand.

  • It has 2 requirements:

    -supply and demand are in balance, and

    -that the backlog is eliminated

Who has done it

Who has done it?

  • USA HMO’s such as KP

  • UK practices in a quality initiative

  • Taber Alberta, Cape Breton

  • Ontario practices: Cambridge Grandview, Chatham Tilbury, Burlington Caroline, Toronto New Heights CHC, Wawa



  • Taber (Alberta) – decreased asthma visits to ER by 33%

  • New Heights (Toronto) – average wait from 30 days to <8hrs for same day



  • No shows – New Heights reduced rate from 23.5% to 15%

    - Nottingham reduces from 160/month to 20/month

  • Capacity – New Heights increased the number of pt encounters by 41% over 14 months

Advanced access

Advanced Access

  • “Heard it through the grapevine”

  • Learned the specifics through a Quality initiative our practice joined (‘QIIP’)

My 3rd next appt summer 2009

My “3rd next appt” – Summer 2009

How to implement

How to Implement

  • Get buy in from your staff

  • Measure your supply and your demand

  • Analyze patterns of usage

  • Plan your schedules and processes based on your own data

  • Set a start date

  • Work down the backlog

How we started

How we Started

  • Got staff to ‘buy in’

  • Measured supply and demand, determined that my current schedule can meet demand

  • Started in summer 2009, and set a date 3 months in advance (Oct 1st) as a start date (this was where my ‘physicals’ were booked up until)

Measuring supply and demand

Measuring Supply and Demand

  • Supply: When you are available for patient appointments

  • Daily Demand: appointment requests each day

  • Demand is both ‘external’ (patient initiated), and ‘internal’ (provider initiated)

  • Got staff to measure

Data collection challenges

Data Collection Challenges

  • Multiple secretaries

  • Differing commitment to the goals

  • Better buy in after I had implemented it successfully

  • ?easier to collect for all docs, not just 1

Demand measures

Demand Measures

  • My practice is 1450, about 85% rostered

  • Actual total demand – weekday average is:

    12.6 measured pre AA (15.4 measured post AA – more accurate)

  • Internal / External demand proportion

    34 + 66% before Advanced Access

    20 + 80% after AA

Demand estimates ices

Demand Estimates – ICES

  • Based on measured annual visit rates of age groups in Ontario (0-1, 1-4, 5-9, etc.)

  • Sept 2007 – Aug 2008

  • Includes patient visits to all primary care physicians, not just their own family doc

  • Includes walk-in clinics

  • Excludes ER visits

  • Does not include non-rostered patients

  • Separate estimates for FHT, FHO, FHN, FHG,FFS

Demand estimates ices1

Demand Estimates – ICES

  • Used my total practice number (not just rostered patients)

  • Plugged numbers in to the spreadsheet

  • 3,791 visits/year / 46*5

    = an average of 16.48 visits/weekday

  • An overestimate as based on total visits to ALL GP’s (so perhaps useful…)

Matching my supply to demand

My weekly schedule:

Monday AM

Tuesday Eve

Thursday AM

Thursday PM

Friday AM or PM

My weekly demand

Monday – 19 (23)

Tuesday – 12 (16)

Wednesday – 10 (8)

Thursday – 13 (18)

Friday – 10 (12)

Average – 12.6 (15.4)

Matching My Supply to Demand

Matching my supply to demand1

My weekly schedule:

Monday AM (16)

Tuesday Eve (16)

Thursday AM (16)

Thursday PM (12)

Friday AM or PM (16)

My weekly demand

Monday – 19 (23)

Tuesday – 12 (16)

Wednesday – 10 (8)

Thursday – 13 (18)

Friday – 10 (12)

Average – 13 (15)

Matching My Supply to Demand

Matching supply to demand

Matching Supply to Demand

  • Supply was about right for 16 visits / day

  • Bookings changed from 10 minute intervals with lots of precoding, to 15 minutes intervals with little precoding

Contingency plan for vacations

Contingency Plan for Vacations

  • Plan in advance

  • Measure the length of vacation

  • Don’t prebook anything (if possible) for an equal length of time after the vacation ends (call it the ‘vacation recovery period’)

  • The vacation recovery period opens up to appointments once the vacation starts

Staff training

Staff Training

  • Initial meeting to outline concept, set start date, and establish ‘rules’ (as little rules as possible!)

  • Explained my new schedule: now 4 slots / hour, from a previous 5-6 / hour (15 minutes slots vs. 10 minute slots)

  • Initial Rules: limits on number of appts to be prebooked each day

    - what can and couldn’t be prebooked (later relaxed this, let them prebook if they wanted to)

    - 2 slots for CPX, everything else 1 slot

Sent a letter to patients

Sent a Letter to Patients

  • A lot of work (review of roster)

  • It did save my time in explaining to patients at end of visits when questions about when / if to rebook

Letter to my patients

Letter To My Patients …

I would like to let you know about an exciting change in my medical practice that will be taking place over the upcoming months! Please feel free to share the information with any of your family members or friends who may also be patients of mine.

‘Advanced Access’ for Appointment Bookings

Starting on October 1st, I will be keeping about 2/3rd’s of my appointments each day open for booking either that day, or the day before. As a result, the number of ‘pre-booked’ appointments (appointments that can be booked well in advance) will be limited to about 1/3rd of that day’s appointment slots. The idea behind this new booking method (known as ‘Advanced Access’) is to make myself more available to you on the day that you call in for an appointment.

Working down my backlog

Working down my backlog

  • I added 2-3 extra half days over the 3 months

  • There should be no ‘unmet demand’ when advanced access starts

Working down my backlog max packing

Working down my backlog "Max-Packing"

  • "Max-packing" is doing as much for patients while they are in the office for any given visit, in order to reduce future work

  • I always did this somewhat, as I was lousy at being assertive with patients (“I can’t deal with that problem today …”)

  • RN looked ahead in the schedule, if multiple appointments we tried to do everything today

  • long days!

Working down my backlog1

Working down my backlog

  • Utilize team ‘huddles’ at the start of each day to plan for the day ahead.

Other implementation details

Other Implementation Details

  • Some appts can/should still be prebooked (WBV, PN, dementia, mental health, chronic pain)

  • We eventually allowed any prebooking with just encouragement to book at last minute

  • Still need to leave ½ day open for practice ER

  • Frequent Flyers

Advanced access appointments

Now, here is a typical week’s schedule before the week begins …

Advanced access appointments

Monday October 19th

Advanced access appointments

Tuesday October 20th

Advanced access appointments


October 22nd

Advanced access appointments




Advanced access appointments

And, here is a schedule in ‘real time’ …

Advanced access appointments

Tuesday October 13th

9 AM

Advanced access appointments

Tuesday October 13th

10 AM

Advanced access appointments

Tuesday October 13th

End of clinic


Contingencies ….

Conference vancouver feb 2010

“Conference”Vancouver, Feb 2010

Conference delegates

Conference Delegates

Back in smithville

Back in Smithville …


Networking …

Back in smithville1

Back in Smithville …

Trauma demonstrations

Trauma Demonstrations

Back at wlmh

Back at WLMH …

Small group workshops

Small Group Workshops

Back in smithville2

Back in Smithville …


Dermatology …

Back at wlmh1

Back at WLMH …

Groundbreaking study announcement

Groundbreaking Study Announcement

Face the music

Face the Music

I return from holiday …

Anecdotal feedback

Anecdotal Feedback

  • Patients – is this going to last ?

  • Front Desk – love it!

  • I feel I am meeting my patients needs better

  • No shows much less (was 28 / month, now 6 per month)

  • I am too available to other’s patients!

Pc average waiting times 3 rd next appointment

PC – Average waiting times(“3rd next appointment)

No shows month

No Shows / month



  • No change

  • ?impact on pure FFS models?

Pc of my pts appts in the office that are with me

PC = # of my pts appts in the office that are with me

Where did we go from there

Where did we go from there?

  • Presented this information to physician retreat in the first month

  • Are any interested in a ‘second wave’ of changing to Advanced Access?

  • 3 said yes

  • 2 said maybe

  • 2 said no

  • As of May 2011, 7 of 8 MD’s on AA

Jb 1400 3 days wk ob er 3 rd next appointment

JB (1400) – 3 days/wk, OB, ER(“3rd next appointment)

Kb 1105 3 days wk 3 rd next appointment

KB (1105) – 3 days/wk(“3rd next appointment)

Md 1070 3 days wk 3 rd next appointment

MD (1070)– 3 days/wk (“3rd next appointment)

Returned Oct 09 ‘early’ from surgical leave, locum overlapped by 1 month as she worked part time

Mnw 1360 4 days wk er 3 rd next appointment

MNW (1360)– 4 days/wk, ER(“3rd next appointment)

Ss 930 3 days wk er 3 rd next appointment

SS (930)– 3 days/wk, ER(“3rd next appointment)

Mat Leave locum from July 10 to Mar 11

Returned April 11 (pts were told May 11)

Ts 1440 3 days wk gpa ob 3 rd next appointment

TS (1440)– 3 days/wk, GPA, OB (“3rd next appointment)

Am 1140 3 days wk ob 3 rd next appointment

AM (1140) – 3 days/wk, OB(“3rd next appointment)

Just went on Mat leave, will hopefully return to AA with help of locum



  • Advanced access works!

    - reduces 3rd next appointment

    - reduces no-shows

    - reduces demand

  • Get buy in

  • Measuring demand labourious but helpful

  • Estimating demand by ICES may be a short cut

  • Varying expectations of what ‘open’ is to suite your practice

References and resources

References and Resources

  • Murray M, Tantau C. “Same-Day Appointments: Exploding the Access Paradigm”. Family Practice Management. 2000, September.



  • McCollum, WRK. “Improving Access in primary Care - The Advanced Access methodology”. Oct 10, 2009,





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