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Managing patient demand: a qualitative study of appointment making in general practice

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Pauline Pearson, Dr Christopher Drinkwater CBE


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Background: Managing patients' requests for appointments is an important general practice activity. No previous. research has systematically observed how patients and receptionists negotiate appointments. Aim: To observe appointment making and investigate patients' and professionals' experiences of appointment negotiations. Design of study: A qualitative study using participation observation. Setting: Three general practices on Tyneside; a single-handed practice, a practice comprising three doctors and a seven-doctor practice. Method: Participant observation sessions, consisting of 35 activity recordings and 34 period; of observation and 38 patient and 15 professional interviews, were set up. Seven groups of patients were selected for interview. These included patients attending an 'open access' surgery, patients who complained about making an appointment and patients who complimented the receptionists. Results: Appointment making is a complex social process Outcomes are dependent on the process of negotiation and factors. such as patients' expectations and appointments availability. Receptionists felt that patients in employment patients allocated to the practice try the Health Authority, and patients who did not comply with practice appointment rules were most demanding. Appointment requests are legitimised by receptionists enforcing practice rules and requesting clinical information. Patients volunteer information to provide evidence that their complaint is appropriate and employ strategies such as persistence assertiveness, and threats, to try and persuade receptionists to grant appointments. Conclusion: Appointment making is a complex social process where outcomes are negotiated. Receptionists have an important role in managing patient demand Practices should be explicit about holy appointments are allocated, including publishing practice criteria.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Drinkwater C; Pearson P; Gallagher M; Guy J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: British Journal of General Practice

Year: 2001

Volume: 51

Issue: 465

Pages: 280-285

ISSN (print): 0960-1643

ISSN (electronic): 1478-5242

Publisher: Royal College of General Practitioners


PubMed id: PMC1313977