Journal of Primary Health Care Journal of Primary Health Care Society
Journal of The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners
RESEARCH ARTICLE (Open Access)

Measuring doctor appointment availability in Northland general practice

Kyle Eggleton 1 , Liane Penney 2 , Jenni Moore 2
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

1 Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, The University of Auckland, New Zealand

2 Northland District Health Board, New Zealand

Correspondence to: Kyle Eggleton, Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, The University of Auckland, New Zealand. Email: k.eggleton@auckland.ac.nz

Journal of Primary Health Care 9(1) 56-61 https://doi.org/10.1071/HC16036
Published: 29 March 2017

Journal Compilation © Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners 2017.
This is an open access article licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Abstract

INTRODUCTION: Primary care access is associated with improved patient outcomes. Availability of appointments in general practice is one measure of access. Northland’s demographics and high ambulatory sensitive hospitalisation rates may indicate constrained appointment availability. Our study aims were to determine appointment availability and establish the feasibility of measuring appointment availability through an automated process.

METHODS: An automated electronic query was created, run through a third party software programme that interrogated Northland general practice patient management systems. The time to third next available appointment (TNAA) was calculated for each general practitioner (GP) and a mean calculated for each practice and across the region. A research assistant telephone request for an urgent GP appointment captured the time to the urgent appointment and type of urgent appointment used to fit patients in. Regression analysis was used to determine the relationships between deprivation, patients per GP, and the use of walk-in clinics.

RESULTS: The mean TNAA was 2.5 days. 12% of practices offered walk-in clinics. There was a significant relationship between TNAA and increasing number of walk-in clinics.

CONCLUSION: The TNAA of 2.5 days indicates the possibility that routine appointments are constrained in Northland. However, TNAA may not give a reliable measure of urgent appointment availability and the measure needs to be interpreted by taking into account practice characteristics. Walk-in clinics, although increasing the availability of urgent appointments, may lead to more pressure on routine appointments. Using an electronic query is a feasible way to measure routine GP appointment availability.

KEYWORDS: Primary health care; Appointments and schedules; Health services accessibility; Health centers; Ambulatory


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