Time to Next Available Appointment as an Access to Care Metric
Timely access to care is one of six aims for health care systems emphasized in the Institute of Medicine’s influential report Crossing the Quality Chasm. Long wait times for outpatient care are associated with higher likelihood of mortality, and systems that successfully improve access to care start by measuring it. Days until third next available appointment is a metric that describes backlog for appointments. Third next available is considered a more reliable metric because last-minute cancellations might distort the days until the first or second available. We tested this assumption by comparing the variability over time of days until first, second, third, and fourth available appointments.
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