After supper, a friend told me healthcare gave terrible service.
As a senior management consultant for a well-known multi-national corporation, he spends his time helping companies run well. In his opinion, healthcare runs poorly.
While full of wonderful, caring people, healthcare is inconvenient and inefficient.
7 Waits and How to Fix Them
1. Waiting for appointments with Family Practice – All family docs could offer same day visits. Some physicians have been doing it for decades. Their patients love it, and their practices remain profitable. Some patients want appointments booked days in advance and that should continue. Other patients want to be seen the same day and could be accommodated with on-site urgent-care clinics or advanced access booking.
Patients should never have to wait to see their family doc (or a physician in the practice group).
2. Waiting in the waiting room for your physician – This should be very rare. When it happens every visit, it represents terrible practice management. Physicians run 2-3 exam rooms to prevent patient waiting. If physicians are double-booking because of patient no-shows, then they should collect no-show fines or consider firing patients from their practice who continue to not attend for booked appointments. If physicians are booking too many patients to see them promptly, they need to stop booking so heavily and spread out appointments. They should stop fooling themselves and book a longer day at the office. They are staying late anyways; they might as well do the courtesy of allowing their patients to arrive later instead of making them sit in the waiting room for hours.
Either way, it’s up to physicians to keep their own waiting rooms empty.
3. Waiting for blood-tests and X-Rays – Lab tests can be processed in minutes to hours, but we make patients book separate visits to get blood-work and imagining, then we make them book another visit to discuss the results! Basic blood-work and x-rays should be available same day for all patients. This can be done by allowing advanced access at labs and imaging suites. Digital images can be read off-site.
Patients could receive basic tests and results in the community just as they do in the ED without extra cost to labs and with great savings for patients.
4. Waiting to see specialists. Ostensibly, wait times to see specialists are long because there aren’t enough specialists. However, there’s a glut of unemployed specialists in many fields (e.g., orthopedic surgery, cardiac surgery, etc). Most of the specialists are ‘unemployed’ because they can’t get operating room time. If there really are too few specialists, why don’t they leverage family docs (or unemployed surgeons) in their clinics to screen through their consults and follow-ups?
I worked for a few years as an associate with our local vascular surgeon to churn through his office visits and minor procedures so he could focus on patients needing surgery.
5. Waiting in an ED waiting room – We discuss how to close your waiting room in other posts. It’s the right thing to do – get patients inside, get them seen, get them treated.
6. Waiting for an inpatient bed inside the hospital – There is no reason to warehouse patients in emergency departments. Unless hospitals make a conscious decision to get patients up to the wards, nurses and physicians will not change their behaviour and get patients upstairs. Dozens of papers show that quality and patient satisfaction improve when patients wait in the halls on inpatient wards instead of waiting in the ED. Furthermore, hospitals that send admitted patients up to the wards, when there are ‘no beds available’ on the ward, somehow find a way to put patients into rooms. Staff find a way to discharge other patients to open up space.
Admitted patients should never be left in the ED to wait for an inpatient bed.
7. Waiting for surgery – Patients wait because OR time is limited by OR closures or cancellation of surgery. ORs need to be kept open – after hours if necessary – to treat patients. Surgery must not be canceled because surgical beds are full of medical patients.
Let surgeons manage surgical beds; do not let medical flow issues shut down surgical flow.
1. If we remove waits, won’t demand go up? Won’t utilization increase? Anxious patients who demand ‘unnecessary’ investigations receive those investigations in the current system. Most average patients don’t want to give blood or get X-Rays and then wait around for results unless they really have to. Average patients would continue to pursue investigations only on advice from their physicians.
2. Wouldn’t MDs start ordering too many tests if they knew they could get same-day results? Sure, more family docs might order blood-work and X-Rays for patients that they presently send to the ED preventing a few ED visits. Same day service would still require hours of waiting for patients; hardly a convenience all patients would want. The current technology for blood-work and x-rays still dissuades frivolous testing because of the time and effort required. Until investigations become as quick and convenient as a medical scan on Star Trek, we won’t see a giant spike in investigations.
Canadians wait politely, and they should not. There’s no need for most of it.
We need to challenge the old way of doing things: waiting for appointments, waiting in waiting rooms, waiting for labs, waiting for x-rays, waiting to discuss results, etc, etc…
We need to adopt a ‘get it done now’ approach all across healthcare.
If you agree, feel free to leave a comment by clicking on leave a reply or # of replies.