“I can get an appointment when I need one”: Needs-based appointment system shows signs of success

In August 2023, Steno Diabetes Center Odense (SDCO) introduced a needs-based, patient-led appointment system to ensure that those who most need help can get it. Apart from their annual check-up and other necessary appointments, the 3,500 outpatients are not given scheduled times and are instead invited to call and make an appointment when they need one. With the outpatient diary largely cleared for the purpose, many patients can get a time within days. 

“It’s fantastic that I can call up and get an appointment when I need one,” says Tina Sølvstrøm Jeppesen. “I have leukaemia, which means I’m at the hospital a lot. And when I’m here anyway, it’s great that I can come to the outpatient clinic on the same day, instead of going backwards and forwards twice.” 

Jeppesen, 41, has lived with type 2 diabetes since 2009 and is one of many patients who have welcomed the new needs-based system.  

The goal was to ensure that those who need clinical guidance and support can always get it quickly, while those who are at a place where they need less support and are more able to manage their condition themselves are not burdened with unnecessary appointments. The system also empowers patients, giving them more control over their condition and its management. 

No patients are left to fend for themselves, however. Everyone is still invited for an annual check-up and followed closely when needed. Health professionals are also available to help patients assess if and when they need an appointment. 

‘The outpatient clinic of the future’
Within two months, SDCO staff could see the system working, and fears that the clinic could be inundated with calls every day proved to be unfounded.  

Lene Borgen Esmann, Head Nurse at SDCO, also sees the system as a necessary change for a future with an ageing population, higher incidence of chronic diseases including diabetes, and, most likely, fewer resources. 

“If we are to succeed in securing the best life for people with diabetes in the future, we can see from the demographics that we have to change the way we do things,” Esmann says. “Those who can, must do things themselves, so that we can find time and resources for the patients who need it.” 

SDCO has also taken a second step in that direction. In just a few months, more than 200 outpatients have been taught how to measure their blood pressure and received a blood pressure monitor to use at home, saving time in appointments. Again, patients are being empowered to play a bigger role in managing their condition, while resources are freed up to be used where needed most. 

Both changes are part of SDCO’s ambition to create “the diabetes outpatient clinic of the future”, says Esmann. 

Further information

Novo Nordisk Foundation, Judith Vonberg, Communications Specialist, +45 4172 7925, jvo@novo.dk