Access to primary care is critical to the health of our patients and community. Long wait times for primary care appointments, particularly for new patients, lead to cancellations, no shows, and the loss of patients to other health systems. Penn Medicine has a large network of primary care practices in and around the Philadelphia area. Some practices are at full capacity, resulting in increased wait times for new patients. However, other primary care practices can easily accommodate new patients.
We set up an experiment to see what impact load balancing might have. Practice managers and call center supervisors gave 19 call center representatives the ability to schedule appointments at both the Clinical Practices of the University of Pennsylvania (CPUP) and Rittenhouse Clinical Care Associates (CCA) starting in December 2012. The load balancing effort was aimed at redirecting new patients from the overcapacity CPUP practices to the underutilized CCA clinic.
In two months, the experiment yielded impressive results. Almost 150 new patient appointments were scheduled. Time to appointment went from around four weeks to a few days. Most importantly, patients showed up to their appointments and many continue to receive their primary care at the CCA practice.
When we revisited the project several months later, a total of 905 new appointments had been scheduled over a ten month period using the load balancing process. Two physicians, new to the practice at CCA had very little patient volume prior to the intervention, and after the redistribution they have large, robust patient panels that bring additional revenue to Penn Medicine.