One of the most frequent calls I get is from a concerned parent asking for my assistance to get an appointment for their child. On August 1, I held a meeting to discuss patient access and scheduling at Texas Children’s. I heard from each member of my leadership team and was advised that they receive calls for assistance every day. Did you know that we have nearly 100 distinctive sites that schedule patients and approximately 600 FTEs dedicated to this extremely decentralized process? This issue is extremely widespread across our system and it isn’t just A problem at Texas Children’s – it is THE problem at Texas Children’s.
I appointed Dr. Larry Hollier, Associate Surgeon-In-Chief and Richelle Fleischer, Senior Vice President of Revenue Cycle to co-chair a task force to study and make recommendations on how we can significantly enhance the patient scheduling process throughout the Texas Children’s enterprise. That multi-disciplinary task force has been hard at work, and I want to thank them, our nursing and medical staff leadership, and our In-Chiefs for all of their support and hard work. In addition, I know you are all aware that I have made access and patient scheduling a goal for the organization this year.
I’d like to share the thoughts from the mother of one of our Texas Children’s patients. She has a chronically ill child and every time she wants to get an appointment for her child within the Texas Children’s system, she takes a deep breath, says a prayer for her own patience and for that of whomever might be at the other end of the phone at Texas Children’s. She mentally prepares “to go to war.”
This is exactly what many of our families face when they attempt to get their children here to receive the care they need. And those words – “go to war” – those really are the words we heard from a frustrated, yet determined mom simply seeking the best for her child. Sadly, she is not alone. In a recent patient access survey, “frustrated” was the word families most frequently used to describe our scheduling process. Should it be that hard? Should a family already stressed by a health issue be further challenged by our system? No, it should not be that hard.
We are so much better than this, and we can do better. We pride ourselves on being the best at what we do and providing exceptional care. But if our expertise is locked behind a maze of limited availability and complicated processes that vary from service to service, we end up denying care to those who need us most. We can work smarter and more efficiently to do the most basic thing our patients and their families expect of us – we can open the door to our system and make it easier to get inside.
Fortunately for us, we already have the tools and technology in place to more than meet our patient families’ needs. What’s actually more critical to effect the changes we need is a shift in the way we think and a willingness to move out of our comfort zones and to do what’s necessary to make getting here easier for our families. Truly caring for our patients means being attentive to every element of their experience with us. In this case, it means we must change the way we do some things.
A few weeks ago, I emailed you about our FY2018 goals. As an organization, we are focusing on four priorities: Access, Care Coordination, Quality and Finances. In a few weeks, we will be making some changes specifically targeting the access challenges. Although we have leaders working diligently on the issue of access daily, I want everyone at Texas Children’s thinking about this. What can you do to help families get into our door? No one knows our system as well as you do, so when an idea hits you, I want to know … leave me a note below.
Demand for our care and services is ever increasing. The wisest thing we can do to ensure the health and future of Texas Children’s is to maintain the respect and reputation we have earned. Our goal is to exceed our families’ expectations. And being the one amazing team we are, I know we can do this. We must.