28 Apr Internet Can Keep Your Doctor On Time!: Why I Hate "The Visit"
Ever wonder why you have to wait at the doctor’s office? An alternative source of health information, say a web site, could actually let your doctor stay on time.
I took my kids to their doctor’s office yesterday. It reminds me of the terrible customer service in our “business,” but points out how things may improve in the future.
My two acquired children are on the small side. We were referred by their doctor to see an endocrinologist. I was acting as a non-physician parent…oh boy.
Simply calling to make an appointment was stressful. I expected to be put on hold, and I was. The most annoying part of this process was having to justify why I wanted the boys to see the specialist. I had to answer a series of questions to ensure that I had a legitimate reason for making an appointment. I had to pass a test.
Didn’t matter that we were referred by the boys’ physician.
Finding a time and day to fit my schedule and to minimize the amount of time away from school was tough, too. Eventually, we were able to find a time when both kids could be seen almost together (small wait in between appointments).
We had to wait 8 weeks.
We arrived a bit early. I had two reasons; I was hoping to get seen early and I wanted extra time to fill out the forms…in duplicate.
Though I had given the account and health insurance information over the phone… I had to repeat my efforts as part of the “new patient” process.
I don’t wait well. Neither do my kids. Did I mention they have ADD? The office was designed for the pediatric age group. Colorful playtoys and moving objects “decorate” the walls in anticipation of “The Wait.”
Why is there always a wait?
There is always a wait because of “The Visit.” The doctor reviewed each case and overall felt the condition might be the same in each case. We needed to ensure that there is no disease process causing the small size, but it was likely that the ADD medications might be the culprit (by suprressing appetite). She said “we see this all the time.”
Unfortunately, our doctor felt compelled to repeat the same reasoning for each child, that is, she repeated herself.
What Does This Mean? The major bottleneck of any office is “The Visit.” While there are automated ways to save time with “The Scheduling” and “The Arrival,” the most time can be saved at “The Visit.” (“The Scheduling” may someday be streamlined via automated interactive web services. “The Arrival” at the office can also be improved by sending the required forms in the mail or having them available for download.)
The biggest problem with a schedule is that it involves patients.
Patients have different problems. Patients have different degrees of understanding. Patients have different ways they learn. In short, patients have varying time requirements to satisfy these needs. It is impossible to account for these variances in a schedule. For example, what may take 5 minutes to explain to one patient may take 20 minutes to another.
We can improve this by providing alternative resources to enhance patient understanding.
My hope is that someday, the same information provided by the doctor can be found documented on a web site to serve as a resource. This can reduce time spent in the office, enhance patient learning and reduce the anxiety of forgetting “what the doctor said.”
In my own practice, I’ll refer to articles on my web site. This visibly relaxes the patient as they now have a resource. It reduces the additional questions. When I also offer communication via email, there is added comfort in knowing questions can be entertained in the future.
In our case yesterday, how many times a day does a doctor repeat herself? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if she could have referred to her own web site?
In the end, the office visit and schedule runs smoother, patient satisfaction improves, and “The Visit” is less of a problem.