FAQs: On Same Day Appointments

                                               FAQs on Same-Day Appointments


Q: Why did you change the way you handled students who were sick or injured?


A: Over the years, students told us “you can’t schedule being sick.” That’s absolutely true. So we built a system comparable to what happens in an ER or an urgent care center – you walk-in and say you want to be seen and then you sit and wait your turn. We had 1 or 2 clinicians assigned to walk-ins while the rest were booked with appointments.  The problem is if a lot of people walk-in at the same time, both clinicians get tied up and the wait gets really long. Students told us they didn’t like that.


Q: What’s the difference between “same-day” and “open access” – why do you keep using both terms?


A: In the practice management literature, this system is referred to as “open access.” The feedback we got from students this summer is that students would not understand what that meant and that “same-day” better conveys what we are trying to do.


Q: So how is this open access/same day system better?


A: What we have done is changed all our clinician schedules so that at the start of each day, each clinician has 60-80% of their appointment slots unfilled. Those get filled up as students call or come in and ask to be seen quickly. Let’s say someone comes into the health center with a sore throat and wants to be seen.  In the old system, they’d have to wait until everyone in front of them gets seen – that might be 30 minutes or 3 hours.  Under this system, they might be able to be seen right away or get an appointment for 1 or 2 hours later.  They’ll still be seen in a timely fashion but they won’t have to wait in the Health Center. With an appointment in hand, they can go off to the library, run some errands or go back to their dorm room or apartment until it’s time for them to be seen.


Q: Won’t the same problem with long wait times happen if a lot of students come in at once?


A: We don’t think so. We went back over the past few years and looked at how students utilized the Health Center. Approximately 50% came in through the walk-in system and that was over the course of the entire day. We are starting each day with about 60% of slots free so we think we will be able to accommodate the demand. Each student will be given an appointment that works for them and they won’t have to sit in the Health Center until that time arrives. But we’ll have to wait to see and adjust if necessary.


Q: When and how can I get a “same-day” appointment?


Monday’s same day appointments will be released at 0830 that day. Same-day appointments for Tuesday through Friday will be released at 1 PM the previous day. So if a student walks in on Tuesday after 1 PM and wants an appointment, they might be able to get one that afternoon; if not, they’d be able to book it for the next day. Students can come by or call to schedule a same-day.


Q: What’s the difference between a “same-day” and a “scheduled” appointment – aren’t they both scheduled?


A: That’s correct – the wording gets kind of awkward. The difference is when the appointment slot can be filled. We are using “same-day” to refer to the open slots in each clinician’s schedule that cannot be filled until that morning on Monday on until 1 PM the previous day for Tuesday through Friday “same-day” slots.  These slots/appointments are to be used to accommodate students who have an urgent or pressing problem.

The “scheduled” appointments are ones that can be booked weeks in advance. These slots are designed to be used by students who want to be seen for something that is not urgent: an annual gynecologic exam, a travel consult or a physical exam. Or for someone who comes in with a symptom that they have had for weeks and want to get checked out (for example headaches). These “scheduled” appointmrnts are also meant for students with chronic illnesses such as asthma or diabetes or high blood pressure who may need regular visits (perhaps weekly or monthly) to monitor how they are doing. Students with a bad case of mono often need to be seen weekly for 3-4 weeks so they also can use up one of these “scheduled” appointments. Women who are starting birth control for the first time usually need to come back at least once to make sure everything is okay – so both the initial and first follow-up visit could go into a “scheduled” appointment slot. The major difference between the two is that “same-days” are really geared towards accommodating students with acute illnesses or injuries.



Q: How will you know if the system is working?


A:  We think Hopkins students are pretty good at letting us know if things aren’t working for them. We plan to meet with the RAs in a month or two and also with the students that advised us over the summer to get feedback. We’ll also check each day to see if there are students who come in with an acute problem that can’t be accommodated in a timely fashion. Students should also feel free to email Dr. Alain Joffe, the Director (ajoffe@jhu.edu). We’re always looking for constructive feedback and helpful suggestions.