The quickest way to reduce time to treatment

July 17, 2017

Maureen Fitzgerald
Communications Coordinator, ATTC Network Coordinating Office
Editor, NIATx

What's the quickest way to reduce waiting time to treatment?

Two NIATx coaches, Scott Gatzke and Elizabeth Strauss, were quick to offer the same answer:

"Stop scheduling appointments."

Throwing out your appointment book might seem an unlikely solution to the wait-time problem. But walk-in appointments or "open access" have helped transform organizations like The APT Foundation in New Haven, Connecticut. In the first year of offering same-day service, average time to treatment decreased from 22 days to 8 days. 
"By the second year, it was down to 2 days, and today most people receive their first treatment or medication, or both, on the same day they walk in.”
Offering same-day service had a ripple effect at APT. Reducing waiting time to treatment increased admissions and revenue. Read the full blog post (one of the first posts we published in this blog way back in 2013!)  No appointment necessary

Other agencies have had similar experiences.

In Maine, the Addiction Resource Center was able to reduce wait time for patients seeking medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction to three days or less.

Read all about it in this NIATx E-news story, NIATx tools improve access and efficiency at Maine's Addiction Resource Center

How to stop scheduling appointments 

"Consider easing into it," says NIATx coach Elizabeth Strauss. "Try walk-in assessments for just one day a week for just two weeks. That way, staff can get used to the idea and weigh the pros and cons of this approach over scheduling appointments."

Remember, in the NIATx approach, you only embrace a change after you have proof (data) that it is an improvement.

Strauss helped develop many of the NIATx Promising Practices that you can find on NIATx website. Check out  Establish Walk-in Hours.  It offers step-by-step instructions and sample forms that you can use for testing walk-in hours in your agency.

You can also try out some of the other NIATx Promising Practices that build capacity for walk-in appointments. Three that Strauss recommends include:

Has your agency stopped scheduling appointments?  How has it changed the way you offer services? Share your story in the comment section below! 

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