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Key Issues in Transforming Health Care Organizations for Quality: The Case of Advanced Access

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Background: The 2001 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report highlighted the need for transformation of the U.S. health care system. This rigorous qualitative evaluation of transformational change for patient access in one large multispecialty group practice identifies the major issues facing organizations addressing the IOM challenge.

Methods: Semistructured depth interviews were conducted with the medical and administrative leaders at all levels, physicians, and nurses from 17 primary care clinics in one integrated medical group two years after they began to transform their approach to primary care patient appointment access.

Results: The mean time to third-next-available appointment was reduced by 76% during one year, from 17.8 days to 4.2 days. Nine important issues related to the change process were identified from clinic interviews. When combined with issues identified by central leaders, 13 themes stood out as lessons in transformational change. A major issue is the tension between physician autonomy and both effective organizational function and putting patients first. Physician autonomy is also diminished by the need to standardize and systematize care.

Conclusions: Transformational change in care delivery is possible in large and complex group practices. Changes that directly affect care delivery and physician autonomy present particular challenges to physicians that need to be attended to if the changes are to be successful.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2004

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  • Published monthly, The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety is a peer-reviewed publication dedicated to providing health professionals with the information they need to promote the quality and safety of health care. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety invites original manuscripts on the development, adaptation, and/or implementation of innovative thinking, strategies, and practices in improving quality and safety in health care. Case studies, program or project reports, reports of new methodologies or new applications of methodologies, research studies on the effectiveness of improvement interventions, and commentaries on issues and practices are all considered.

    David W. Baker, MD, MPH, FACP, executive vice president for the Division of Healthcare Quality Evaluation at The Joint Commission, is the inaugural editor-in-chief of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety.

    Also known as Joint Commission Journal on Quality Improvement and Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Safety
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