Overcoming obstacles to simpler, more timely access to patient care

Updated on May 14, 2024
Smiling mother and her little son visiting dentist

Adults with chronic conditions give U.S. healthcare a C+ rating when it comes to patient access, or the ability to receive care when and where they need it, a recent poll found. Yet 56% of consumers rate healthcare highly when it comes to being technologically advanced.

It’s time for healthcare leaders to consider: When it comes to providing simpler and more timely access to care, what’s standing in the way?

The struggle to “make the grade” when it comes to delivering the level of care access patients crave, even in organizations with a wealth of technological resources, typically comes down to two factors: 

1. Operational maturity, or the extent to which an organization successfully leverages internal processes and technology to efficiently accommodate provider preferences and simplify operations, and

2. Patient experience, or the degree to which patients feel empowered to engage with the organization on their own to find providers, schedule appointments, coordinate care and more.

Most healthcare organizations fall into one of four quadrants on the Patient Access Maturity Matrix:

Quadrant 1: Subpar patient experience. High operational maturity.

Organizations that fall into this quadrant typically have patient access solutions at their disposal, but they struggle to make good use of these tools. These organizations also face challenges in consolidating tools from multiple vendors and struggle to develop a coherent IT strategy.

What to consider: For these organizations offering multiple, integrated options and access points—including mobile options for patient scheduling, check-in, communication and payment—could allow patients to feel empowered while ensuring organizations don’t miss out on vital payment or appointment opportunities. 

Quadrant 2: Superb patient experience. High operational maturity.

Among organizations in this quadrant, most aspects of patient access and operational efficiency work quite well. These organizations often seek help in maintaining their competitive edge and making better use of human capital. For instance, they may lack a detailed view into their patient access performance, typically due to lack of data, which can hinder continuous improvement.

What to consider: To maintain their edge in the market, these organizations must continually measure outcomes, set goals, and iterate and smartly onboard technology that will further ease operational burden on their staff while enhancing the patient experience.

Quadrant 3: Subpar patient experience. Low operational maturity.

Generally, these organizations haven’t implemented the necessary technology and business updates to stay competitive. Just 5-10 years ago, these providers might have relied on their patient portal to help keep patients feeling engaged. Now, their inability to keep up with the continued rise of consumerism and digital advances has them playing catch up.

What to consider: While these healthcare organizations might still enjoy a loyal patient population built years ago, their reliance on outdated, manual processes for patient access—such as scheduling processes that depend on multiple phone calls and lots of paperwork—puts them at risk of losing patients to a more experience-friendly provider. 

Quadrant 4: High patient experience. Low operational maturity.

These organizations tend to deliver a high-touch patient experience that requires a lot of manual effort from staff. For instance, while organizations in Quadrant 4 might offer an automated solution for scheduling, their version of this technology is often a less mature “request an appointment” feature rather than a true self-scheduling platform. Patients may be happy and engaged, but high-touch processes can quickly lead to staff burnout and turnover. 

What to consider: Look for opportunities to automate tasks and implement improved workflows. This will ensure an organization can scale its approach to patient access and the customer experience while reducing staff burnout and turnover.

Increased revenue, better outcomes

Ultimately, the ability to generate increased revenue and better patient outcomes depends on high patient experience and high operational maturity. Leaders must develop a plan of action that addresses changing consumer expectations and their organization’s short-term and long-term business goals. For example, organizations may find they not only need to automate scheduling to take pressure off staff, but also invest in tools that simplify patient intake. 

David Dyke headshot
David Dyke
Chief Product Officer at Relatient

David Dyke is Chief Product Officer for Relatient, which focuses on intelligent scheduling and patient engagement using a mobile-first approach. Integrating with all leading EHR/PM systems, Relatient engages with over 50 million unique patients per year on behalf of provider groups and health systems across the U.S.