Group Health Cooperative begins to deal with its major appointment-availability problem on September 1, 1976.

  • By HistoryLink Staff
  • Posted 3/08/2006
  • Essay 7680
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On September 1, 1976, a consultant team for Group Health Cooperative delivers a report titled "Problems of Appointment Availability." Group Health commissioned this study after consumer problems in making appointments had become notorious. The report begins the process of overhauling procedures that will change the situation and solve the problem.

Rapid growth had been a mixed blessing for Group Health that contributed to the difficulty consumers had in obtaining appointments with their physicians or other health care providers. This difficulty experienced by many of the 208,000 enrollees became notorious in the mid-1970s, so much so that KING TV News did an investigation. Reporter Don McGaffin told viewers that it took him 78 calls to arrange a visit to his Group Health physician. The Board of Trustees was not amused, and commissioned a study.

The consultant team comprised Dr. Robert Rushmer and Dr. Steve Yarnell. Their report noted that the difficulties "permeated the entire organization, one which is inherently set up to bring about encounters between physicians and enrollees. Therefore, appointment availability could not be regarded as a problem that could be studied in isolation" (Crowley, 153).

The report observed that at the Cooperative's current rate of grown and turnover, half of Group Health's current enrollment would be replaced within three years. The report noted that "these people must be educated" because there was "great confusion and uncertainty as to how to use the system" (Crowley, 153).

According to Dr. John Gilson, head of staff education, the impact of the report was to force Group Health to "take an ongoing look at how the Cooperative is delivering health care" and to "engage in self-examination and self-renewal from now on" (Crowley, 154).

Sources: Walt Crowley, To Serve the Greatest Number: A History of Group Health Cooperative of Seattle (Seattle: GHC/University of Washington Press, 1995), 147, 153-154.

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