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The importance of making an appointment

Posted 9/18/2012   Updated 9/21/2012 Email story   Print story

    


by Airman 1st Class Austin Harvill
633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs


9/18/2012 - LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va.  -- Often when an appointment is scheduled, no one intends to miss it; but when it does happen, no one thinks they have done any harm.

Some might even say, "Maybe I left a spot open for someone else," and then casually brush off the incident.

However, for places that operate by appointment, such as the finance office or the U.S. Air Force Hospital Langley, this can lead to money, time and personnel losses.

"When a member doesn't make an appointment, that is a time slot lost," said Airman 1st Class Kaitlynn Privett, 633rd Air Base Wing special action technician. "With mandatory appointments, that means we know they will reschedule, taking up another time slot."

At the finance office, roughly 10 percent of appointments are "no-shows" for mandatory Separations and Retirement briefings. Since Service members must attend the briefing to finalize their retirement, personnel have to scramble to ensure that no-shows are still tended to, causing a disruption in work flow.

The ripple effect caused by one no-show could affect the finance office's other missions, which in turn can affect other Service members looking for assistance.

If the Service member knows the appointment must be cancelled, Privett said a notification 24-hours ahead of the appointment, at a minimum, is preferred.

"The notification gives us an opportunity to fill the spot again;" said Privett. "So the schedule is more or less the same."

If you didn't believe an absence at the hospital or the finance office makes a difference, Maj. Andy Stewart, 633rd Medical Group group practice manager, presented some facts that said otherwise.

The Department of Defense measures military healthcare value in accordance with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.

Using those measurements, it is estimated that USAF Hospital Langley loses $128,186 per month due to no-shows. In essence, that money is going to waste since a patient isn't being treated.

Of the 4,327 no-shows that USAF Hospital Langley had from May 1 to July 31, 2012, 35 percent were active duty Airmen. In the family health clinic, roughly 50 percent of no-shows are active duty Air Force Airmen and family members.

With those numbers, how does one person make a difference?

A physician in the family health clinic sees, on average, about 20 patients a day. If 26 people (the daily amount of no-shows at the family health clinic) miss an appointment, one physician is not being used per day in the family health clinic.

But for the staff, the numbers don't matter. It is the lack of care being given to patients that matter.

"We're here to keep people healthy," said Stewart. "I'm not happy until everyone can get an appointment whenever needed."

Stewart and the medical community strive for a continuity of care. Continuity of care means that a patient interacts with the same medical team whenever possible. Stewart said that patient health increases once continuity of care is established. When people can't get the appointments they need with a familiar physician, that continuity of care is broken.

No-shows do more than upset bank accounts or physician interaction; they have the potential to impede emergency personnel.

"When there are no-shows, we have to send folks down to the emergency room for non-emergencies," said Stewart. "That increases the cost of routine procedures and places other, more urgent patients further back in the line for treatment."

In the end, appointment-oriented personnel agree that no-shows cause frustration for the staff and Service members. This prevents personnel from giving Service members the quality care that everyone deserves.

"When a customer is frustrated, we want to let them know we are working for them," said Privett. "We are here for their benefit, always."



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