‘Access’ definition broadens
Considering the ramifications of consumer-directed health care offers yet another opportunity to broaden the definition of access services. With health care organizations scrambling to do a better job of serving patients in an increasingly competitive environment, there may be new roles that ambitious access managers can assume, suggests Gillian Cappiello, CHAM, senior director for access services and chief privacy officer at Swedish Covenant Hospital in Chicago. After all, she notes, that’s how “admitting” became “access services” in the first place.
One possibility may lie in the field of customer relations management, which aids organizations in identifying and targeting customers more efficiently, Cappiello says. Special software, for example, can ensure that hospitals send materials relating to women’s health issues only to households with female members between certain ages. In some cases, however, one might argue that the term has become almost too comprehensive. “The word ‘access’ pops up everywhere,” notes Cappiello. “Physicians are leaving their practices due to malpractice concerns, and in some parts of the country, there is a shortage of neurologists. So there’s the issue of access to physicians.”
Another access issue has to do with patients who can’t get insurance, she adds. “The term is bandied about in all kinds of circles. “All these issues are beyond the scope of access services as we’ve defined it,” Cappiello says. “We may not be directly involved, but it gives access managers the chance to say, ‘That fits,’ and look at what the career opportunities are.” It’s about how access managers can rise to the occasion, she adds.
Recently, Cappiello says wryly, her boss turned to her during a discussion of whether hospital departments should be closed on a holiday, and said, “Well, that’s an issue of access. What do you think?”
Her response: “It’s really not my decision, but if you want me to make it, I will.” (The departments closed that day.) Cappiello, meanwhile, went on to write the hospital policy that clearly defined that, if a holiday falls on Saturday, the departments will be closed on Friday, and if it falls on Sunday, they will close on Monday.
She points out, however, that there is room for discussion there. “Everyone [else] is off on those holidays, and they want to come in and have their tests done then. That might not be the best decision for [every hospital]. It depends on the market and demographics.”
Sounds like another access issue.