More on Operations

Patient experience, care access drive improvement efforts by medical practices, MGMA survey shows

Practices are making frequent use of satisfaction surveys, cutting wait times, but more extended hours are needed, results show.

Beth Jones Sanborn, Managing Editor

A new survey by the Medical Group Management Association shows medical practices are focusing on patient experience and access as options for care delivery multiply.

Called the Practice Operations Survey, the survey analyzed a variety of data, based on information provided by 791 practices across the country, that MGMA said has never been available before. Those benchmarks include: patient portals usage, wait times, call volumes, hours of operation, appointment length, scheduling and other tasks tied to running a medical practice.

Results showed that practices focused their effort on cultivating patient experiences information, and used it to inform operations improvements. For instance, 85 percent of practices conduct patient satisfaction surveys; of those, more than 70 percent conduct them monthly, or more frequently.

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Patient access was also a major focus of the survey. Results showed 61 percent of responding practices made an effort to cut wait times, reporting median wait times between 10 and 15 minutes for time spent in the waiting area.

However, despite growing demand for extended hours, only 26 percent of respondents reported having office hours on Saturdays, 11 percent on Sundays. Additionally, nearly all of those practices with extended weekend hours were primary care or multispecialty practices, along with a smattering of surgical specialty practices.

Other patient access metrics included in the data were wait for a scheduled appointment, call volumes and responsiveness, length of appointment times, number of appointment slots per day and percentage of same-day appointments.

[Also: The complete interactive guide to MACRA clinical practice improvement activites]

The increasingly popular patient portal also show specific areas of utilization; more than 10 percent of participants said patients use online portals most for accessing test results, regardless of specialty. Primary care practices saw higher usage for communication with providers and medical staff, compared to other specialties.

"From what time the doors open to how long a patient waits in an exam room, operations affect a practice's bottom line as well as its ability to deliver quality care to patients," said Halee Fischer-Wright, MD, president and CEO of MGMA. "As patients increasingly have more options for receiving care, it's essential for practices to have benchmarking data to identify tactics that best improve patients' experiences."

Twitter: @BethJSanborn