Although I may kvetch when I’m stuck in a doctor’s waiting room, impatiently tapping my foot as I check my watch to see a half hour has passed since my appointment time, I begrudgingly understand the delay.
Doctors are more overloaded than ever these days and the typical 15 minutes allotted to each patient doesn’t cut it anymore. Add to that more budget-conscious patients are waiting longer between visits to see their doctors, so when they do, there’s more to discuss. Then, there are the other realities that go into managing a practice – taking care of the staff, handling government compliance, referrals and more.
Still, there are ways to enact efficiencies, if even in my dreams, that will help streamline the visit and improve patient satisfaction.
If the doctor is running an hour or more behind, send a text:
If the office staff would send patients a text for seriously delayed appointments, the patient would have the option of rescheduling to another day, especially if other time commitments make it completely inconvenient to spend two hours in a waiting room. For elderly patients or those without text capability, a phone call would suffice. These specifications could be noted on new patient intake forms.
Remind patients electronically
Speaking of texts, it helps considerably to receive automatic and electronic reminder alerts of upcoming appointments. Doing this would ideally free up the office staff from making phone calls so they can move patients through more quickly in the office.
Set up online scheduling
Again, this automated tool could eliminate the time front office staff spends going through the calendar and waiting for patients to decide what day and time is good for a return visit.
Establish an online form function
Allowing patients to access and complete office forms via their computers and setting up online delivery would streamline the in-office back and forth and decrease administrative time. Patients would also have access to their medications, insurance cards, and other information they may have forgot to bring to the office, which slows down the process for everyone.
Consider video conferencing
Do you know how time-saving it would be to communicate with my doctor this way for simple follow-ups or for referrals to specialists? If each doctor could allot a block of time to electronic follow-ups, I feel certain this would save administrative time and money, and also make it more convenient for the patient.
Listen and repeat
I’ve had doctors who don’t give me an adequate amount of time to speak and then draw conclusions on incomplete or inaccurate information. Doctors who listen are underrated. It’s also helpful when the doctor reiterates what I’ve said so I’m confident he or she “got it” and we’re agreeing on the issue, diagnosis and follow-up treatment.
Centralize patient information
It took some time, but my current doctor’s office is using tablets to input and reference my patient information. Electronically storing and accessing my data is much more preferable to waiting while the doctor leafs through paper files to find what he needs to know about me. An extra benefit of centralizing my patient data is that referrals and prescriptions can be sent automatically to the front office so many times, they are taken care of by the time I leave the doctor.
It would also be amazing if I could access my patient information myself online. That way, I can save an extra call to my primary’s office if I need a piece of information for a specialist visit or insurance that I could find myself online.
Don’t insist on unnecessary follow-ups
I can call if I’m experiencing medication side effects or need to update on my referral. Better yet, a video conferencing option would allow me to check in with the doctor without having to make the drive to the actual office. If I’ve had tests done and they are normal or no action is required, just email me the results.
In this new age of healthcare, both doctors and patients are working to figure out the best ways to optimize our experience. Taking advantage of technology seems central to saving time for both of us – as does simple, good old-fashioned respect and courtesy.
What does your doctor do to make your visits more efficient? What do you wish he or she would do?