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Improving Patient Access to the Veterans Health Administration's Primary Care and Specialty Clinics

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Background: During the past four years the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has been engaged in a national effort to improve access for patients to its 1,826 primary care, audiology, cardiology, eye care, orthopedics, and urology clinics by using the principles of open access or "advanced clinic access." The strategy entailed the development of successful cases to demonstrate the methods of advanced clinic access and provide evidence of its benefits for providers as well as patients in primary care and specialty clinics.

Results: Four clinics—one primary care clinic and three specialty care clinics—showed dramatic improvement in waiting times for appointments (reductions range from 20 days in urology to 78 days in primary care).

Discussion: Beyond the four case studies, hundreds of other clinics in the VHA are also applying advanced clinic access principles in their work. The diversity across the VHA suggests that the principles of advanced clinic access are robust across settings and types of clinics. However, the experience of other organizations with different structures and patient populations needs to be reported to fully demonstrate the generalizability of these results. Many of the changes were put in place during the project's final 18 months. Additional data will be needed to demonstrate sustained improvement.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 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.

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