Office Visits and ER Wait Times Leave Patients with no Patience

By EmilyM

Recently, while waiting in the doctor’s office for a simple medication follow up appointment, I was left wondering two things. “Why can’t I simply do this over the phone ?” and “Why am I waiting if I am the only one in the office AND the first appointment of the day?”

Many people are beginning to ask the same sorts of questions in doctor’s offices and emergency rooms across the country…and answers are not always that easy to come by.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal took a more in-depth look at the reasons why we wait and how doctors are attempting to make these wait times more bearable. You may have noticed that in many cities there are billboards with updated ER wait times. The hope is that before going into the hospital, patients already know what to anticipate.

Doctors are also trying to leave larger gaps in-between scheduled appointments to allow for overflow time. People who come to the doctor for one particular problem often have other questions about their health that they would also like answered. Many of us can understand that. Once we are in the office, we feel we should be able to address more than one concern. However, waiting as the result of someone else doing this often makes us irritable and impatient.

I remember going to an urgent care center, when my primary physician was all booked up, before a vacation so I could get medication for a cold that was lingering. Once I got into the office, a second quick question I had been wanting to ask the doctor entered my mind. As I began addressing it, I was cut off mid-sentence and told I was only allowed one question. Now, in hindsight, I  can see why this makes sense since this was not  my normal practitioner. But as a patient who was expected to pay a higher co-pay than my normal physician’s visit and get less for my money, this was frustrating.

Clearly there is a case for both sides. Doctors need to do their jobs which requires office appointments that run over the allotted time and patients want to have all their needs met but hate to wait. This is were telemedicine and cyber-office visits seem to highlight the solution to the problem and open up the doors to the future of medicine.

Now, there will always be specific concerns that can’t be addressed in this way. For example, someone in a horrific car accident and in need medical care right away. It would not be appropriate to take them to the nearest computer or phone for instant care, these patients still need hands on ER-type medical care. But how about the person sitting in their doctor’s office to discuss the effects of a medication or simply to tell the doctor they are feeling better? Imagine being able to have medication prescribed from your office or home computer for conditions that can be safely diagnosed this way or even reoccurring conditions that you know what type of care you need?

It makes sense that many of these less-urgent follow ups and even certain medical concerns can be addressed outside of the office, freeing up time for more urgent cases and allowing these patients access to healthcare that fits into their schedule.

So why aren’t more doctors and hospitals doing this?

There are several reasons including fear of the unknown, new technology etc.. as well as lack of affordable and well-regulated online health care. However, as the next few years pass, more and more will surely see the benefits for all parties involved when patients can easily access doctors online. Wait times for emergency rooms decrease, patient satisfaction increases and access to healthcare is made available to even those who cannot leave their homes.

Of course there will always be those who think, “if it’s not broken, why fix it?” but when it comes to wait times I believe more would agree, many patients are losing patience with the current state of healthcare.

If you are interested in learning more about online health care and it’s efficiency, check out this report published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.