Thursday, March 27, 2008

Group Practice Lowers Wait Times

Do larger group practices’ lower health care wait times? The short answer is yes and the proof is below. First, when someone arrives or is referred it is easier to accommodate them. Second, larger organizations have economies of scale that increase efficiencies. I’ve posted the graph below a couple of times, but it’s an important one. As utilization increases so does wait time. The relationship is driven to the right (increased efficiency) by a larger organization and lower variation.

In addition, if patients are willing to accept different providers, they will wait less time. Our office receives greater than 13,000 referrals for treatment from GP’s each year. When each person is referred they (or the referring office) are asked if they want a specific doctor or the first available appointment. For most cases (93%) any provider is acceptable. But does the other 7% wait longer, because they ask for a specific provider? We studied the question by data mining 5445 records for patients over a 3-year period (2005, 2006 and 2007) for 5 providers, in 1 office for a single type of consultation (in this cases a minor procedure in the office under general anaesthetic). 382 of the patients (7%) were marked for a single provider only (in other words they only wanted to be booked with a specific doctor). On average the group that requested a specific provider waited 7 days more (20 days instead of 13) and had a greater amount of variation in the amount of time they waited (17 instead of 14). A graph of how each patient group was distributed by days waited is below.

The group that wanted a single provider only waited 51% longer and had 18% more variation in the time they waited. This is why, group practices lower wait times.

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