How Dermatology Fixed a Broken Appointment Process
Date: June 7, 2010
When Caroline LeGarde joined Hopkins’ Department of Dermatology as its administrator last year, she quickly noticed that patients calling in for appointments had to wait an average of 40 days before they were seen by a physician at the Johns Hopkins Outpatient Center.
So LeGarde, Outpatient Center Medical Director Manisha Patel and others set to work in February 2009 to turn that situation around. The department added six new full-time physicians, with expertise in areas like Mohs surgery and ethnic skin conditions, to supplement a roster that previously had included numerous part-time providers.
To improve the efficiency of the practice, they established a central phone number, 410-955-5933, to call for appointments. Before, patients might have had to call several physicians’ individual offices to see who had availability.
They also added to the schedule some specialty blocks. In a weekly multidisciplinary skin oncology clinic, for example, patients with melanomas or suspicious skin spots can see melanoma specialists, the department director and a dermatopathologist with one appointment. There are also clinics especially for patients with skin manifestations of autoimmune disorders or skin lymphoma. And now, if slots reserved for specialty cases aren’t filled within a week of the appointment date, schedulers are free to convert those times to open appointments for any patients.
As a result, patients can now typically get in to see a physician within two weeks, and same-day appointments are usually available for rashes or urgent concerns.
“We’ve opened up a lot of availability to see our physicians that hadn’t been there,” LeGarde says. “There’s an expectation that there will be a wait because it’s a specialty and because it’s Hopkins. Patients are very surprised they can get in so quickly and see a dermatologist. It’s a very exciting time in our department.”