What’s (holding you) up, Doc?

One of the universal truths seems to be that your doctor’s visit will not happen at the time of your appointment.  Doctors are always running late.  Always.  In fact, Americans waited over 847 million hours for medical services in 2007 alone.  847 million hours!

It is not surprising that consumers are not happy about losing all of those hours in the waiting room.  In fact, extended wait times were the #1 patient complaint in a Consumer Reports study.

But what if you could check on the wait time in the doctor’s office, just as you can check on delays at the airport?  Then you would know if you had enough time to finish one more quick thing in the office, or to stop for a coffee.

Well, a new application, MedWaitTime, offers exactly that.  The service, available to patients of subscribing doctors either on-line or via mobile device, allows you to check in on the doctor and see how far he or she is running behind schedule.  MedWaitTime can also be used to see how long you might have to wait at the ER or Urgent Care Center – helpful when you are trying to decide whether little Bobby needs to be rushed right over or whether he might be better off heading to the family doctor.

Think about the possibilities – eventually you could even comparison shop between local Urgent Care options to see which might offer the most immediate response.  Or choose your doctor with an understanding of his wait time history.

If medical offices adopt this technology on a broad-scale basis, it could potentially transform the experience of seeking medical care!  Less time in the waiting room flipping through ancient magazines and more control over the experience.  Who wouldn’t want that?

Some doctors worry that if they disclose that they are running late, patients will not be waiting when they are finally ready for them.  But really, most people assume that the doctor is running late anyway.  Giving them visibility to the wait time is likely to encourage patients to show up on time if they can confirm that there is not a wait!

Patients love the idea, although older people without access to the internet are less likely to benefit from the service.  As adoption of cell phones and internet-capable devices spreads more broadly, this will become less of a concern.  Older patients are frequently escorted to the doctor by a caregiver who would be likely to be more connected.

MedWaitTime is only available in a few offices right now, but hopefully will expand soon to include more doctors.  Eventually you could show up at the doctor just in time to be seen.  Or at least bring a good book and know how many chapters you can get through before the doctor is ready for you.

01. June 2010 by Ruth Folger Weiss
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