Reducing wait times

Dr. chong's story

Video narrated by Benjamin F. Chong, MD, MSCS, FAAD
Service Chief of Dermatology, Parkland Health and Hospital

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When I first started working in the dermatology clinic at Parkland Memorial Hospital—a safety net hospital in Dallas—the wait times for new patients were at least one year. It was frustrating for everyone involved: the dermatologists, referring providers, and patients. We knew we needed to make some changes within the clinic structure to help address those long wait times.

We decided to make five key changes to our clinic operations to make sure we’re available when patients and colleagues need us. We discharged patients who had stable dermatologic diseases with low acuity to their primary care doctors’ care. We reorganized our clinic schedules so that we had consistent numbers of appointments for new and follow-up patients. We hired a new nurse to help with patient care and designated a resident to perform all biopsies to improve clinic flow. Finally, we hired a physician assistant to handle our low acuity dermatology cases.

From May 2012 to September 2015, these interventions led to a significant decrease in new patient wait times from 377 days to 48 days, and established patient wait times from 95 days to 34 days. Our ability to discharge our patients to primary care doctors for ongoing management was critical to our success. We are fortunate to have strong relationships with the primary care doctors in our hospital system and can easily communicate to them our recommendations for further dermatologic care.

Overall, we were surprised but pleased to find that relatively minor modifications could reduce wait times so drastically.

The hospital's perspective

It’s critical that we can provide patients with the care they need when they need it. The dermatology clinic’s efforts have been tremendous—wait times have been reduced from a year to just a number of weeks. Based on the dermatology clinic’s success, we’ve expanded these initiatives to our cardiology and neurology clinics, and they have brought down their wait times too.

– Joseph Chang, MD, MBA, FACOG
Associate Chief Medical Officer for Outpatient and Ambulatory Services, Parkland Health and Hospital System