Making healthcare services available to patients where, when and how they want to be served is becoming a priority for medical practices. The consumer’s definition of convenience has changed dramatically, due in part to the speed of the internet. Patients are no exception. What used to be satisfactory in obtaining a medical appointment may now be unacceptable, sending patients otherwise loyal to their doctor to a medical clinic in a drug store, an urgent care clinic or even the emergency room when unable to obtain a timely appointment to see their regular doctor.

In “Toward a Strategy of Patient-Centered Access to Primary Care,” an article appearing in the October issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings and will be available Thursday (Sept. 4) online at the journal’s website, professor Leonard Berry at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School, and co-authors Dan Beckham, Amy Dettman and Robert Mead, present a comprehensive framework that primary care medical practices can adapt in offering “patient-centered access” (PCA). The framework ranges from improving patient access to in-person appointments of various types to innovative remote access pathways such as off-hours call centers staffed by nurses and video conferencing with a clinician.

The article illustrates each access path with examples from medical practices currently using them and closes with an in-depth discussion of how a Wisconsin-based health organization has evolved its PCA strategy. Had the Veterans Administration applied an access strategy similar to that which is outlined in this article, it conceivably could have avoided the access scandal that has engulfed it and that so poorly served its patients.

Patient-centered access (PCA) to primary care services is rapidly becoming an imperative for efficiently delivering high-quality health care to patients. To enhance their PCA-related efforts, some medical practices and health systems have begun to use various tactics, including team-based care, satellite clinics, same-day and group appointments, greater use of physician assistants and nurse practitioners, and remote access to health services. However, few organizations are addressing the PCA imperative comprehensively by integrating these various tactics to develop an overall PCA management strategy. Successful integration means taking into account the changing competitive and reimbursement landscape in primary care, conducting an evidence-based assessment of the barriers and benefits of PCA implementation, and attending to the particular needs of the institution engaged in this important effort.

Beckham is an MBA. Dettman is an RN and an MBA. Mead is an MD.

Contact Leonard Berry at


Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,600 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.


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