Healthcare // Patient Tools
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2/14/2014
09:06 AM
Alison Diana
Alison Diana
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10 Waiting Room Apps That Engage Patients

Waiting room stress raising your patients' blood pressure? Use these apps to keep patients busy and your practice running smoothly.
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Just about every aspect of healthcare is transforming -- everything but the traditional waiting room, which hasn't advanced much since the invention of television. Forward-thinking practices  are changing that, introducing mobile devices and apps that make patients more productive, more educated, or entertained when they visit the doctor. 

These physicians are turning their waiting room into an asset, not a liability.

According to a 2013 Software Advice survey of 5,000 patients in the US, 90% of patients are aggravated by doctors' office delays. These patients may grumble to themselves -- or post scathing comments on doctor review sites, potentially putting off future patients (or making current ones grumpy when they finally see the physician). 

On average, patients sit around for 20 minutes before seeing a doctor -- and some wait as much as 45 minutes past their scheduled time. That's time healthcare providers could use to enhance their relationship with patients, rather than alienating them. It's time doctors could learn more about their patients. Eliminate wait time, and patients could stay longer at home or work, run errands, or play the latest knock-off of Flappy Birds in comfort instead of on a hard plastic chair.

If you live in Alaska or Wisconisn your average wait is about 16 minutes, doctor review site Vitals.com reported in 2013. In a hurry to see your MD? Don't come to Mississippi or Alabama, where you'll wait an average of 24 minutes, or El Paso, Texas, where you can sit around for almost half an hour.

So how can medical practices balance between serving patients well and cutting wait times, especially if people run late or run into complications?

Of the Software Advice survey respondents, 60% said free WiFi would improve the quality of their wait time. But healthcare providers can do much more than merely supplying a free Internet connection. Providing tablets equipped with specific apps creates new ways to connect with patients and share information about office services. 

The pending doctor shortage and influx of newly insured patients will further fill waiting rooms, pundits predict. Not only will patients wait longer to see doctors, they'll spend less time with their physician when they finally get to an examination room. Mobile apps that gather patient data and make it part of an electronic health record can improve communication, cut costs by eliminating duplicate testing, and improve health outcomes by providing a fuller healthcare record.

Already suffering heartburn over today's waiting rooms, patients could delay routine checkups if the process becomes even more onerous. Let's make everyone feel better by emptying waiting rooms whlie keeping practices busy. 

 

Alison Diana has written about technology and business for more than 20 years. She was editor, contributors, at Internet Evolution; editor-in-chief of 21st Century IT; and managing editor, sections, at CRN. She has also written for eWeek, Baseline Magazine, Redmond Channel ... View Full Bio

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Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Author
2/14/2014 | 10:25:38 AM
All very cool apps but...
THese are all good starts (I especially like the coud-based messaging system MyCareText which notifies authorized friends and family members about a patient's condition and alerts specific individuals if a doctor needs to speak to them). But what I really can't wait to see is a truly integrated platform that stores all my personal medical records and lets me connect me with all my various providers through a single pane of glass. 
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
2/14/2014 | 10:39:53 AM
Re: All very cool apps but...
We're starting to get there, especially now more practices are using EHRs. As hospitals are consolidating and healthcare providers are using the EHRs aligned with their hospitals, we're seeing de facto standards within a region. My orthopedic surgeon and my daughter's doctor, for example, are both affiliated with the same hospital and both use the same EHR. You can easily foresee a time where developers would create a patient portal to that EHR. However, since my GP doesn't use an EHR yet, I'd be out of luck! And my husband sees a GP who uses a different EHR and hospital. 

To truly provide seamless visibility into their health, patients would need a portal that integrated with all EHRs, starting with the heavyweights and extending slowly to the smaller players. Of course, privacy and security are key. Patients would want mobile and desktop access, so it's not a small initiative by any measure. Some practices offer this capability but it's limited to just their physicians. One day, I'm sure we'll be able to see our entire health history on our phone (or other mobile device) but not yet!
Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Author
2/14/2014 | 10:44:22 AM
Re: All very cool apps but...
My GP has a mobile app which is very good, for the most part. Keeps track of my appointments, recent tests, and I can even use it to refil a Rx. But as I get older (sigh) and see more specialists, the lack of integration is frustrating....  I think it's a reflection about how disconnected patient care truly is. It's the patient that controls the process and part of your job in staying healthy is keeping your providers informed about your health. Wish there was an app for that!
RobGordon
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RobGordon,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/7/2014 | 11:19:19 PM
Re: All very cool apps but...
Hi Marilyn

I was interested in your post because integration is something I'm familiar with. At least how hard integrating data between applications is!

I'm trying to get my head around a software solution for people who care about their health.

Can you give me a link to your GP's app?

I'd love to see what they are offering

Sincerely 
Rob Gordon

South Australia

 
Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Author
8/7/2014 | 11:32:38 PM
Re: All very cool apps but...
Hi Rob,

It's called Healow. Good luck!
Lorna Garey
IW Pick
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
2/14/2014 | 11:52:01 AM
Re: All very cool apps but...
Printing this and sending to my doctor anonymously. There's a big sign when you walk in, "No Cell Phone Use" -- and, they don't just mean talking. You get a stink eye for texting. Wi-Fi? No way. It's like they have a stake in forcing people to read 2011 copies of Men's Health.
Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Author
2/14/2014 | 11:58:16 AM
Re: All very cool apps but...
A doctor defended physicians who refuse to respond to patient emails -- about medical concerns, no less --  with this excuse: "because some people want to be my penpal." Translation: I can't bill for that time."
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
2/14/2014 | 1:22:00 PM
Re: All very cool apps but...
The best thing about having a smart phone is never having to be bored. Stink eye be damned
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
2/14/2014 | 1:49:31 PM
Re: All very cool apps but...
The highest-tech health care professional I see is my dentist, who just added text alerts. Sigh.
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
2/17/2014 | 4:06:11 AM
Re: All very cool apps but...
Lorna, 

Your plan sounds very nice. :) 

I tried to think of the reasons why your doctor wouldn't allow the use of cell phones not eve for texting, but I couldn't come up with any good reason. Did you ever ask him the reasons for this? 

-Susan 
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
2/14/2014 | 10:42:55 AM
No Thanks!
My doctor has long wait times because he gets a lot of calls from the hospital. I didn't know this when I first started seeing him, but I stick with him because I've found him to be a terrific doctor for my needs. However, I do check sites like Vitals.com when I'm looking for a physician and wait times are one consideration. When I read reviews that say people waited for 20, 30, 60 minutes, I immediately scratch that physician off my list of contenders unless there's some really incredible reason that I have to see him/her. Many of these solutions are relatively inexpensive, considering the ROI of happier or better educated patients. 
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
2/17/2014 | 4:27:18 AM
An updated doctor inspires trust
Alison, 

All the apps sound great. I would have a hard time trying to choose only one. However, this part contrasts so much with Lorna's doctor that it deserves a mention: 

"Using tablets sends a message to patients, according to Dr. Ferencz. "It conveys a subliminal message that this office is up to date technologically," he pointed out, "so they know that we're up to date in our dentistry as well.""

Indeed. This is a doctor I would choose and would trust his knowledge is updated, too. 

-Susan
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