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.