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Waiting for a Doctor? Physician Service Offers Tech-Savvy Alternative for Doctors and Patients
Jul 21, 2011 (04:07 PM EDT)
CHICAGO, July 21, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Recently the news has been full of stories about patients billing their doctors for the time they spend waiting for physicians who run late. Doctors -- in turn -- are offering wait-time discounts, gift cards, and even cash by way of an apology.
"Apologies and gifts are a wonderful gesture," says Dr. Mehta, an orthopedic surgeon at Fox Valley Orthopedic (FVO) and the founder of MedWaitTime.com (MWT) a Web-based communication tool for hospitals, clinics, physicians, and their patients that is used to communicate wait-time information and appointment availability so patients and doctors can make the best use of their time. "But because my patients prefer to know in advance that I'm running late, I developed a solution that takes advantage of advances in technology. Patients can text, check a website or a smartphone app to determine whether or not I'm running on time. The MedWaitTime service enables patients to arrive later if I'm not."
Today's consumer-driven marketplace has become challenging for physicians to navigate, yet a medical practice's very survival depends on them doing so; acknowledging the value of patients' time prompted the Chicago-area surgeon to create a service to alleviate the wait-time problem.
Wait times have long been the number one complaint of patients, whether it's at the doctor's office, a hospital emergency room, or urgent care center. In a recent MedPage Today survey, nearly half of the 3200 respondents said patients who are kept waiting for a scheduled appointment should get a discounted bill. Another sixteen percent said patients ought to receive a gift card or other token for wait times.
And physicians have recently found themselves at the receiving end of an angry backlash from patients tired of being kept waiting long after their scheduled appointment times have come and gone. Thousands of comments have poured in from both doctors and patients on this trying issue in articles such as Waiting Room Poll Strikes a Nerve on MedPage Today, and CNN's health story, Would your doctor pay for wasted time?, about physicians who are now paying patients for the time they spend waiting.
Sadly, what appears to be a blatant lack of respect for patients' time has given many physicians a bad name, alienating them from the very people they're trying to care for. While some offer patients apologies, gifts, and discounts, Dr. Vishal Mehta has found a more technologically savvy solution that revolves around fostering open communication and mutual respect.
"Due to the nature of practicing medicine, the wait-time problem is not going to go away," says Dr. Mehta. "My service illustrates that their time is as important to me as my own. In return, they appreciate the fact that health care is unpredictable, and that some patients' issues require more time than others. MedWaitTime is a two-way solution that incorporates communication and respect."
Today, most medical practices are trying to increase patient satisfaction and are feeling the pressure from consumers to solve the wait time issue. Services such as MedWaitTime provide an effective long-term solution to wait times. Letting patients know before they leave their home or office is a better approach to wait times than after the fact discounts as it decreases the wait, encourages communication, turns an uninformed wait into an informed wait, and shows patients that they are valued.
"My waiting room is no longer an angry place," says Dr. Mehta. "MedWaitTime enables physicians to alert patients to the fact that there is a delay, and offer assurances that they will be extended the necessary time to have all their questions answered by their doctor when they arrive for their appointment."
Another benefit of MedWaitTime is it takes the pressure off office staff who must shoulder the brunt of angry patient complaints. The service also provides free content and links to healthy educational and entertaining content, an alternative to the often tiresome, outdated, and dog-eared magazines supplied in some waiting rooms.
"Whether patients are executives, housewives, or retired seniors, it shouldn't matter," says Dr. Mehta. "A patient's time matters to them, so it ought to matter to us."
Founded in 2010 by Chicago-area orthopedic surgeon Dr. Vishal Mehta, MedWaitTime.com (MWT) is a Web-based communication tool for hospitals, clinics, physicians, and their patients. Used to communicate wait-time information, appointment availability, health news, prevention tips, wellness information, and entertaining wait-time content through http://www.healthy-txt.com, MWT is quickly expanding nationwide. MedWaitTime's mission is to foster patient satisfaction and healthy communications between patients and health care providers, alleviate patient complaints about lengthy wait times, and assist physicians in managing practices to be competitive and profitable.