Reform in Health Care Systems Need to Improve Efficiency

Wait times for care negatively impacts patient health.

Wait times for care negatively impacts patient health.

Delays in health care access have adverse effects on patients and the reputation of organizations, according to a report by The Institute of Medicine.

Waiting times for physician appointments in the United States can be up to several months for some patients. This has an adverse effect on organizations' reputations, as patients become dissatisfied with the waiting times and it also negatively affects patient health, the report finds. Waiting too long to see a professional can often worsen conditions, as well as increase the likelihood of skipping the appointment altogether.

The Institute of Medicine has report discussed how to fix these delays. By providing immediate response to a patient's concern about their condition, health care providers can offer alternate options to in-person physician appointments, including electronic or telephone consultations, telehealth, and surge capacity agreements with other facilities.

The Institute of Medicine identified a few major reasons for such delays in access to health care. These include a mismatch of supply and demand, outdated care-supply models, and obstacles relating to finance and distance.

The study emphasizes more leadership and collaboration amongst the different levels of health systems, and greater attention to day-to-day operations.

"There is a need for leadership at both the national level and at each health care facility for progress to be made in improving health care access, scheduling, and wait times," said Victor Dzau, president of the Institute of Medicine. "Although a lack of available scientific evidence hinders establishing specific standards for scheduling and wait times, systems strategies and case studies can help guide successful practices until more research is completed."

The recommendations made by the Institute of Medicine include:

  • Ongoing evaluation of facilities' activities
  • Immediate engagement of patient concerns at the time of inquiry
  • Patient preference on timing and nature of care invited at the time of inquiry
  • Need-tailored care with reliable, acceptable alternatives to office visits
  • Surge contingencies in place to ensure timely accommodation of needs
  • Continuous assessment of changing circumstances in each care setting.

The report says that national leaders need to have a more active role in revising system strategies in health care, and promote collaborations across multiple departments. These major societies need to better apply new system approaches, to make facilities as updated as possible.

Finally, health care providers need to constantly implement and show a dedication to keeping these standards, as well as look for adjustments that are needed at their sites, so that they can be fixed as soon as possible.