Today, consumers accessing healthcare demand a seamless experience. And nowhere is it more important to recognize and meet these expectations than in an ambulatory setting, such as a provider practice or an outpatient hospital-based service, where many consumers first experience a health system.

With consumers having more options than ever before when it comes to ambulatory care, and competition increasing between traditional providers and industry disruptors, reimagining access is not only critical — it’s a mandate. In fact, more than 70 percent of consumers said they would consider switching providers if they had a poor experience accessing services from their provider.1

Access in Ambulatory Care

Achieving and sustaining the desired result of putting the consumer in the driver’s seat to access care on their own terms is becoming increasingly difficult. It has always required unwavering leadership commitment, focus, and discipline. Now, you must leverage consumer insights and integrate digital solutions with a focus on creating a personalized experience for each consumer that is positive and memorable. Moreover, evolving access in the ambulatory setting requires strong alignment from physicians on why access matters and their critical role in the quest to create a purpose-built consumer experience.

Do it well, and you can expect a significant upside of serving 15-30 percent more patients on top of your existing provider base.[2] Get it wrong, and you risk losing patients before they even set foot in the door.

A Dual Imperative...

Access in Ambulatory Care

Access in Ambulatory Care

Garnering consumer insights to help validate which offerings are valued most is imperative to success. To build a knowledge foundation on your consumers, you will need to develop tools and capabilities to continuously gather, evaluate, and act upon consumer insights. It is no longer sufficient to use dated surveys alone; additional techniques for proactively and systematically acquiring knowledge about your consumers is required. Techniques like consumer personas and journey maps, along with more intensive approaches, such as ethnographic research and prototyping, should be considered as you build out capabilities in this area.

Offer Options to Find and Access Care

Today’s healthcare consumers expect ease of access and support before, during, and after visits. They're demanding options to initiate contact, navigate the health system, and secure the services and information they want and need. Leading health systems are also looking for ways to engage consumers — both potential and established patients — in a personalized and proactive manner to connect them to information and services, and in doing so, engender loyalty to the health system. Creating options that are effective and scalable will require you to lean in hard to digital solutions to automate, streamline, and support the access experience for all involved.

© 2023 The Chartis Group, LLC. All rights reserved. This content draws on the research and experience of Chartis consultants and other sources. It is for general information purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional advisors.

Key Capabilities Include:

Deploying Capacity to Meet Demand

The gains made by offering your consumers options for how they schedule their services will be quickly lost if there isn’t timely availability of the care needed. Offering options for securing care must be teamed with a rigorous, structured approach to demand and capacity management. Simply stated, you need to have the right amount of the right care available to consumers, however they decide to access it.

Key Competencies Include:

Driving Meaningful Performance Gains in Consumer Access Experience

You will need to continuously refresh your access strategies and deploy new approaches to keep up with changing consumer expectations and requirements. Key recommendations for where to go from here:

  1. Begin with a clear and shared commitment of the access experience you want to create for your consumers and an understanding of where you are today relative to that commitment.
  2. Create an executable plan to help move you toward the desired consumer access experience.
  3. As part of that plan, build tailored consumer experiences for select service lines, leveraging shared solutions and creating solutions specific to the given consumer journey.
  4. The plan must also include key operational support, such as optimal care team staffing, facility use, workflows, and EHR functionality.
  5. Don’t get sidetracked by the inevitable distractions: Stick to your plan, and thoughtfully refresh it when new possibilities arise based on consumer insights.

Making meaningful and sustainable improvements to consumer access is challenging work. It requires partnership with individuals throughout the organization, and it demands unwavering leadership commitment. Don’t forget to celebrate along the way and share achievements made across your organization. By recognizing the contributions of the many providers and staff who will contribute to your success, you can further engage them and build momentum in the continuous improvement process that is required to reimagine consumer access to your ambulatory services.


1 The Chartis Group, “Consumer Access Preference Poll” April 16, 2021.

2 Based on Chartis experience.

3 The Chartis Group and Kythera Labs, Telehealth Adoption Tracker,…

4 Sara L. Ackerman et al, “When to Repatriate? Clinicians’ Perspectives on the Transfer of Patient Management from Specialty to Primary Care,” Journal of General Internal Medicine October 2014; 29(10):1355-61,

5 Based on Chartis experience.

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