Background and objectives: A personal physician and enhanced access to care are principles of the patient-centered medical home. Despite the importance of these concepts, measuring and improving interpersonal continuity of care and access to care in academic family medicine centers has received little attention. The authors describe their program's methods and results to maximize continuity of care and minimize delays for care using proven principles from improvement science.
Methods: In 2004, a diverse quality improvement team from our family medicine center joined a breakthrough collaborative with other primary care practices focused on improving appointment access and continuity of care. We followed the model for improvement with a specific aim, explicit measures, and ambitious goals. The team adapted and applied principles from a change package presented in the collaborative to improve access and continuity. We planned and performed small tests of change that were subsequently optimized and spread to the entire practice.
Results: Average time to third available appointment for a routine physical improved from 22 days to 8 days. Average usual provider continuity (UPC) across all primary care physicians in the practice improved from 54% to 68%. Among resident physicians, UPC improved from 55% to 68%. These results have been sustained over 5 years.
Conclusions: Despite multiple challenges in academic teaching practices, the continuous use of improvement methods to apply proven change concepts minimizes delay for care and maximizes continuity of care. The residency continuity practice can and should be a cornerstone of residency curriculum.