Treating patients as customers: A strategy for primary care practices

doctor in lab coat holds up a stethoscope

Making healthcare services available to patients where, when and how they want to be served is becoming a priority for medical practices. The consumer’s definition of convenience has changed dramatically, due in part to the speed of the internet. Patients are no exception. What used to be satisfactory in obtaining a medical appointment may now be unacceptable, sending patients otherwise loyal to their doctor to a medical clinic in a drug store, an urgent care clinic or even the emergency room when unable to obtain a timely appointment to see their regular doctor.

In “Toward a Strategy of Patient-Centered Access to Primary Care,”  Distinguished Professor of Marketing Leonard Berry at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School, and co-authors Dan Beckham, Amy Dettman and Robert Mead, present a comprehensive framework that primary care medical practices can adapt in offering “patient-centered access” (PCA). The article appears in the October issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings and is available online at the journal’s website.

The framework ranges from improving patient access to in-person appointments of various types to innovative remote access pathways such as off-hours call centers staffed by nurses and video conferencing with a clinician.

The article illustrates each access path with examples from medical practices currently using them and closes with an in-depth discussion of how a Wisconsin-based health organization has evolved its PCA strategy. Had the Veterans Administration applied an access strategy similar to that which is outlined in this article, it conceivably could have avoided the access scandal that has engulfed it and that so poorly served its patients.

More at the Mays Business School