4 MIN READ | Wellness

Adam Mulligan

Why Use Third Next Available Appointment for Medical Patients

Cite This
Adam Mulligan, (2022, April 1). Why Use Third Next Available Appointment for Medical Patients. Psychreg on Wellness. https://www.psychreg.org/why-use-third-next-available-appointment-medical-patients/
Reading Time: 4 minutes

A metric essential for medical practices to track to better their patient focus is how long it usually takes a patient to obtain an appointment with their practice. The indication is that the industry standard for accessing appointments occurs by assessing ‘TNAA’ or ‘third next available appointment’. 

The metric boasts a sensitive, more accurate, and dependable measure for access. The suggestion is that the next available appointment or even the second one could be open for numerous reasons. Either the doctor attempted to add a patient, there was an unforeseeable circumstance or a late cancel. 

As a rule, the metric offers a patient a more extraordinary idea in terms of time, whether determining days or as much as weeks from when requesting to book and when scheduling with the provider. 

While the tool boasts valuable for access tracking per the “Institute of Healthcare Improvement, the third next available appointment is currently not being used to its fullest capacity in US medical care. Few practices track TNAAs, and those using them do so with little regularity. The recommendation is that facilities begin with weekly systemic reviews.

Why should medical providers use third next available appointment?

Patient access is recognised for its necessity, but the leaders in medical care are surprising without a universal benchmark or metric to measure the process. When the conversation comes up as to what metric should be pursued, the responses are varied depending on the health system and what has been available to them in the past. 

Few agree on what should be measured by access, what would be reasonable from a medical standpoint, and how to balance when the clients want to be seen with what the organization can achieve.

The three standard metrics for new patient access measuring include:

  • ‘Lag days’ or the average amount of time until a new patient appointment
  • Scheduled percentage of new clients within the threshold
  • New patients scheduled for third next available appointment

The suggestion is that no one solution will be ideal for all practices or providers. It’s essential to determine adequate changes to rectify specific access problems that will work for the facility and satisfy patient needs. 

As a rule, access is when the doctor is available for face-to-face care visits. These are the primary reimbursement resources for many “payment models” and the sort of visit the client most appreciates since the practitioner is better prepared to assess symptoms, physical condition and establish a patient-doctor bond. 

Most patients want to see their doctor whenever there is a need which can be an unrealistic approach to medicine. Insurers strive for practices to provide greater access, asking doctors to make appointments available within a certain timeframe. 

It can mean the difference between abiding by the insurance agreement terms or enduring exclusion or penalties.

Many insurers use the third next available appointment metric as a more authentic analysis of access to care. Offering the next opening can result in an overestimation of availability. 

Perhaps the next available only came open due to a cancellation, but over the next five-day period, there are no openings. The actual availability is severely limited. The third next available appointment time is a more reliable assessment. Learn about everything about TNAA at http://ejazmazhar.blogspot.com/.

Is your medical facility measuring the right metrics?

Medical care patients hope for the same consideration, service, and convenience in their physician’s practice that they would receive in other industries. The practices deal with increases in competition and find fresh ways to drive growth. 

To surpass these difficulties, one of the efforts considered a priority is an initiative into patient access. There are varied metrics practitioners can assess to see which will drive their initiative most successfully. 

While each will likely find different ones meeting their specific circumstances, among the common and recommended as most successful is the third next available appointment. It boasts a reliable and accurate metric proving beneficial to providers and most satisfactory to the clients. See here measures practices use to improve access.

Waiting times for bookings

Decreasing wait times has the potential to significantly impact cancels and no-shows, according to studies, ultimately enhancing the clinic’s resultant conversion and upping the revenue for the practice. Long waits occur when there are minimal scheduling details and a lack of an accessible/provider network. The goalie to ensure patients access treatment faster and smoothly.

The third next available slot is an ‘insightful metric’. These analysis methods mean to help highlight where the barriers are concerning access. The metric is defined as the average duration generally in days between the time a patient requests a booking with the doctor and the third available appointment for a standard exam, new client physical, or return exam.

The ‘third next available’ has preference over the ‘next available’ because it is typically a truer reflection of authentic booking details. As an example, there might be a slot open when a booking request is made due to unexpected circumstances or perhaps a cancellation. 

When incorporating this metric, those ‘chance’ happenings are eliminated from the availability measures making the options more dependable.

The ultimate goal for those who use this metric is to get their access down to the same day or zero for their primary care providers and reduce specialty care doctors’ TNAA to two days for the third next available appointment.

 A third next available appointment can be scheduled on the same day, which would count as “day zero,” and calculations move on from that point.

Final thoughts

A few metrics are used to measure patient access, with different providers choosing varied options for their practices based on their specific needs. 

With competition being so fierce in the medical industry and practitioners attempting to find new and fresh ways to drive their revenue, each will try different metrics to enhance their patient access since this is a primary initiative for boosting these components of the businesses.

Among the most progressive of the metrics is the ‘third next available’, beating out the next available appointment and even the second available for booking. It boasts reliability and accuracy that neither of the other two can provide due to the likelihood for their openings to be due to unforeseen circumstances, possibly cancels, or even no-shows. A third next appointment is an authentic option. 

Patients might not understand if you indicate the metric you are using for their greater good, wondering why you would not go with one of the first two. However, some do not realise it is still possible to get a same-day appointment with this metric if there are three openings on that day, considering how the metric is calculated. 

This option benefits the patient’s regular provider and satisfies the patient’s goals since there is a minimum likelihood of unavailability of the provider. The patient’s care is the center of the focus, and the client is given a bit more control again with their care.


Adam Mulligan did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.


Psychreg is mainly for information purposes only; materials on this website are not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Don’t disregard professional advice or delay in seeking  treatment because of what you have read on this website. Read our full disclaimer