The Emerging Role of the Access Medical Director


The Emerging Role of the Access Medical Director

By Elizabeth Woodcock, DrPH, MBA, FACMPE, CPC and Chris Profeta, MPH

This spring, we authored the article: "A mixed-methods evaluation of the emerging role of access medical director in US health systems." The study was published in the prestigious, peer-reviewed Physician Leadership Journal. [Link to:] We welcome you to read the entire article, however, this post serves to summarize our findings.

The evolving landscape of healthcare in the United States has prompted the emergence of a new leadership position: the access medical director in ambulatory settings. The article delves into the characteristics and challenges associated with this role, shedding light on its importance and prevalence within health systems.

Introduction. Long wait times for appointments not only affect patient satisfaction but also impact access to care and organizational reputation. Despite evidence of the benefits of physician leadership, health systems have traditionally overlooked appointing physicians to roles dedicated to ambulatory patient access. This article aims to bridge this gap by defining the role and exploring its prevalence.

Methods. A mixed-method approach involving interviews and questionnaires was employed to understand the nuances of the access medical director role. Qualitative data from interviews provided insights into the perceptions of leaders, while quantitative surveys gauged the prevalence of the role in health systems.

Participants. Participants included experienced physicians and advanced practice providers serving as access medical directors in their respective health systems. Quantitative surveys were distributed to leaders of health systems affiliated with the Patient Access Collaborative.

Data Collection and Analysis. Interviews were conducted virtually, transcribed, and analyzed thematically. Concurrently, quantitative surveys were distributed and analyzed to determine the prevalence and characteristics of the access medical director role.

Results. Findings revealed variations in job titles but a consistent responsibility for managing ambulatory access. Over 50% of health systems reported having a clinician in a leadership role dedicated to access, with an increasing trend observed over time. Collaboration, technical proficiency, patient-centeredness, and time allocation emerged as key themes.

Discussion. Effective clinician leaders in access engage in collaborative models, possess technical skills, prioritize patient needs, and navigate time constraints. However, challenges such as limited training opportunities and role ambiguity persist.

Conclusion. This study offers empirical evidence on the emerging role of access medical directors in U.S. health systems. By identifying key elements and challenges associated with the role, it provides valuable insights for organizations considering such leadership positions. Further research is warranted to enhance understanding and support the evolving landscape of healthcare access.


We thank the Patient Access Collaborative members who participated in the research study. A special thanks to Dr. Victor Hassid who penned an accompanying expert perspective about the emerging role, which he currently holds at MD Anderson Cancer Center as the Executive Medical Director of Access Strategic Operations.