Patient-Centered Appointment Scheduling: a Call for Autonomy, Continuity, and Creativity

John C. Matulis, Rozalina McCoy

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


When making an appointment, patients are generally unaware of how much clinician time is available to address their concerns. Similarly, the primary care clinician is often unaware of what the patient expects to accomplish during the visit, leading to uncertainty about how much time they can allot to each sequentially appearing concern, and whether they can reasonably expect to address necessary preventive services and chronic disease management. Neither patient nor clinician expectations can be adequately managed through standardized scheduling templates, which assign a fixed appointment length based on a single stated reason for the visit. As such, standardized appointment scheduling may contribute to inefficient use of valuable face-to-face time, patient and clinician dissatisfaction, and low-value care. Herein, we suggest several potential mechanisms for improving the scheduling process, including (1) entrusting scheduling to the primary care team; (2) advance visit planning; (3) pro-active engagement of ancillary team members including behavioral health, nursing, social work, and pharmacy; and (4) application of innovative, technologically advanced solutions such as telehealth and artificial intelligence to the scheduling process. These changes have the potential to improve efficiency, patient and clinician satisfaction, and health outcomes, while decreasing low-value testing and return visits for unaddressed concerns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)511-514
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • appointments and schedules
  • call center
  • healthcare quality
  • primary healthcare
  • professional autonomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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