When I first interviewed at CHC, one of the selling points for me was the health center’s commitment to innovation. I must admit, I was a little skeptical. Innovation is a word thrown around by just about everyone these days, especially when it comes to social media or marketing. On the other hand, many organizations are only starting to get involved in social media, and I have yet to find another health center with a full time social media manager, so I gave CHC the benefit of the doubt. Yet in the back of my head, the words of an old writing instructor echoed, “Don’t tell me, show me.”
On my second day at CHC, Mark Masselli, the President and CEO of Community Health Center, Inc. took me on a tour of one of our sites. He spoke about the importance of medical teams working in pods and of our advanced access scheduling. So, were these examples of CHC’s innovations in providing world class health care to underserved and underprivileged populations? How important is ‘advanced access scheduling’, anyway.
Soon after I started, there was the news that we had received a grant from the GE Foundation. With the monetary grant came GE’s commitment to offer its expertise to the center through its Developing Health program. Over the following months, I heard about folks from CHC meeting with folks from GE on a variety of topics. In addition, employees of GE have volunteered at events like the Family Fair at our Day Street Community Health Center in Norwalk.
Last week, our Chief Medical Officer J. Nwando Olayiwola and Chief Quality Officer Daren Anderson participated in a Webinar organized by GE’s Developing Health program. I was fortunate to be one of the over fifty participants in the Webinar and learned a lot about advanced access scheduling. Often community health centers have no-show rates of anywhere from 25 to 40%. To make sure that doctors are not sitting on their hands waiting for patients that have skipped their appointments, many health centers overbook. This is similar to what airlines do, but perhaps on a larger scale. When more patients show up than are expected, doctors get stressed and need to rush through appointments and patients get frustrated by longer waiting times and less personalized care.
To address this, CHC carefully monitors the demand for appointments and the amount of available time that doctors have. We’ve changed scheduling to have receptionists call to set up appointments when they need to be scheduled, instead of two weeks or more down the road. From all of this, are providers are more efficient, our patients are happier, and no-shows have dropped to around 10%. Dr. Anderson and Dr. Olayiwola provided a lot more information in the webinar and I hope that information becomes more widely available.
Through the webinar, I came to better understand some of the innovations that CHC is leading with and why ideas like advanced access scheduling are so important. GE’s Developing Health webinar seems like a really important way for health centers to share information about innovations. I hope the other participants got as much out of Dr. Anderson and Dr. Olayiwola’s presentation as I did, and I hope other health centers will share some of their innovations as CHC continues its quest to find innovations that will further its goals of providing world class health care to underserved and underprivileged patients.