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Measuring access to primary care appointments: a review of methods

Jones, Wendy, Elwyn, Glyn, Edwards, Peter, Edwards, Adrian G., Emmerson, Melody and Hibbs, Richard 2003. Measuring access to primary care appointments: a review of methods. BMC Family Practice 4 , 8. 10.1186/1471-2296-4-8

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Background. Patient access to primary care appointments is not routinely measured despite the increasing interest in this aspect of practice activity. The generation of standardised data (or benchmarks) for access could inform developments within primary care organisations and act as a quality marker for clinical governance. Logically the setting of targets should be based on a sound system of measurement. The practicalities of developing appropriate measures need debate. Therefore we aimed to search for and compare methods that have been published or are being developed to measure patient access to primary care appointments, with particular focus on finding methods using appointment system data. Method. A search and review was made of the primary care literature from 1990 to 2001, which included an assessment of online resources (websites) and communication with recognised experts. The identified methods were assessed. Results. The published literature in this specific area was not extensive but revealed emerging interest in the late 1990s. Two broad approaches to the measurement of waiting times to GP appointments were identified. Firstly, appointment systems in primary care organisations were analysed in differing ways to provide numerical data and, secondly, patient perceptions (reports) of access were evaluated using survey techniques. Six different methods were found which were based on appointment systems data. Conclusion. The two approaches of either using patient questionnaires or appointment system data are methods that represent entirely different aims. The latter method when used to represent patient waiting times for 'routine' elective appointments seems to hold promise as a useful tool and this avoids the definitional problems that surround 'urgent' appointments. The purpose for which the data is being collected needs to be borne in mind and will determine the chosen methods of data retrieval and representation.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Medicine
Subjects: R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
Uncontrolled Keywords: access; primary care; measurement; appointments; waiting times
Publisher: BioMed Central
ISSN: 1471-2296
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 21 August 2018
Date of Acceptance: 7 July 2003
Last Modified: 21 Aug 2018 11:16

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