Missed appointments at MDG affect medical access Published Sept. 23, 2016 By Jenny Gordon Robins Public Affairs ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- When a patient who has scheduled an appointment with the 78th Medical Group misses a visit with a medical provider, it can affect the ability of other patients to access critical medical care. An appointment that is a ‘no-show’ is lost time and productivity. In addition, many times the patient still needs to be seen and will schedule an additional appointment for the same concern. To date in fiscal 2016, there have been 3,125 missed appointments in the 78th MDG. That number includes patients who have not shown up for scheduled appointments by not calling to cancel. While it can be difficult to measure the financial impact of missed appointments, it’s estimated that in fiscal 2016, it equates to a little over $1.1 million in lost operations. “It’s a team effort here in the 78th Medical Group when it comes to medical access,” said Capt. Zachary Rumery, 78th MDG Group Practice manager. “We’re doing everything we can, but patients can also help us by making sure they come to their appointments. If not, by cancelling as soon as they realize they will not be able to keep the appointment, allows as much time as possible for another patient to schedule that appointment time.” “That would help us tremendously,” he added. Ideally, missed appointment rates should be less than 5 percent of total appointments. Currently, missed appointments for dependents and retirees track at 7 percent. For active duty, typically that rate is 4 percent or less. To cancel or reschedule an appointment, you can visit TRICARE online, or call the central appointment line at (478) 327-7850, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Mondays through Fridays. The 78th MDG’s Central Appointments call center is a very busy and dynamic operation. Their performance has consistently ranked high across the Air Force. Metrics such as call talk time, number of calls answered within a certain amount of time, speed of answers and abandoned calls are all tracked to ensure customer service can be improved every time. On average the clinic receives about 6,600 calls each month, with clerks making another 3,000 outgoing calls to patients. When patients call in to the central appointment line, one of several clerks answers the phone. They are quickly scheduled with a provider who is part of their current primary care team. Currently, the clinic is experiencing a shortage of providers, which is why every appointment that is scheduled is an important one to keep. Because of this shortage, it can take longer than normal to schedule a future appointment. “The biggest impact is that it affects our access, and also impacts our patient’s ability to get an appointment that really needed it,” said Rumery. The group has been working hard to combat missed appointments by calling patients the day before to remind them of their upcoming visits. Patients can also enroll for appointment reminders on TRICARE online.