All in Good Time (Management): Restructuring Primary Care Schedules

It’s impossible to ignore how much power time exerts over our lives. Our human existence is organized and controlled by the passing of time and how much we devote to each aspect, whether it’s study, work, sleep, play or relationships.

But why doesn’t this hold true in the context of primary care? As providers, we tend to ignore the parameters that time has in our normal lives once we enter the exam room. Time always has limits—but somehow we’ve come to consider the exam room as exempt.

And that’s where primary care loses its financial sustainability and the functionality of providing timely access when consumers need it most. More than half of primary care practices in the US are in chaos because they lack the structure and ability to keep up with demand—much of which is due to poorly managed time.

Health is often impossible if it's not on time

We’ve made a huge mistake in primary care by not meeting our patient’s need for timely access. The urgent care industry was born and has resulted in rising expenses, decreasing quality, and marginalization of the primary care discipline as a whole. This loss of access has also devalued the provider/patient relationship. Fixing the ways that we think about time is an important step towards improving health and reaching the Triple Aim Plus One.

But no one really wants to talk about the issue of time because it’s so controversial. Providers don’t want to discuss time management because it seems too restrictive or at odds with their particular style. We think our work is too important to be subjected to time constraints or that we owe unlimited time to patients if they want it. But these kinds of perspectives ultimately make our other patients in the panel vulnerable and compromise our own professional viability.

Restructuring primary care schedules can easily handle the needs of 26 or more patients daily by utilizing a well-trained team, inside the exam room. Timely access is of the utmost necessity and a need that we can no longer avoid.