How telehealth could change one of the worst things about doctor's appointments
What’s the most annoying thing about going to the doctor’s office? For many of us, it’s all the time spent in the waiting room. But there’s good news: Soon, long waits at the doctor’s may become a thing of the past.
Telehealth has changed a lot about healthcare. In a fascinating interview, Dr. David Berg, co-founder and chairman of the board of Redirect Health, mentions how it’s impacted one aspect of doctor’s visits you might not expect: real-life waiting rooms.
Berg explains that telemedicine hasn’t only changed habits and expectations for the 36% of Americans who’ve used this technology for doctors visits; it’s also changed the way many doctors’ offices operate, including new ways of scheduling that minimizes waiting time.
Here are some ways that frustrating waiting aspect of an on-site doctor’s appointment may be impacted by the rise of telemedicine:
• Forms filled out in advance.
With telehealth, patient information can be input virtually. Applying this practice to real-life consultations as well could save immense amounts of time for patients. In this scenario, patients would access the secure online portal used by their doctor and input any requested information. When they arrive for their appointment, they won’t have to spend time filling out forms in the waiting room.
Doctors could also have time to review this information in advance, which would make appointment times a bit faster. Berg even suggests that these forms could be filled out once a patient chooses a doctor, not necessarily just before an appointment.
Of course, Berg concedes, putting this new method into place requires doctors and staff to adapt their workflow. But he believes that it would ultimately pay off for both staff and patients.
• Busy parking lots.
This statement is probably the most surprising in Berg’s interview. He explains that if procedure dictates that patients must fill in forms before appointments, some may forget or simply opt to do it last minute, in the parking lot of the doctor’s office or medical center, just before their scheduled appointment time.
If this becomes the norm, it could mean a massive source of annoyance for people who simply need to find a parking spot, but Berg believes that people will soon learn that it’s a lot easier to fill out the forms well in advance, at home.
• Improved patient well-being.
In addition to the simple relief of not having to sit in a waiting room fighting off boredom, decreased or non-existent wait times could drastically improve things like patient well-being.
Berg sees this from the perspective of two kinds of patients. The younger, fairly healthy group is worried that waiting time will make a doctor’s appointment too difficult to fit into their schedule, so they keep putting it off. Older or less healthy patients are worried that the longer they spend in a waiting room, the greater chance they have of being exposed to COVID-19 and other contagious conditions.
If waiting time is decreased, patient stress would decrease as well, and in the case of the first group, patient health could improve, since putting off appointments wouldn’t seem as necessary.
So, thanks to the influence of telemedicine, long waits at the doctor’s office may no longer be a common complaint.
Of course, this won’t happen immediately. It will take time for doctors and healthcare centers to implement certain changes. And even then, life can be unpredictable. Despite planning ahead and a solid scheduling system, a consultation could go on longer than expected, or a doctor could be running late.
Still, by and large, long waits at the doctor’s will soon hopefully be one of those inconveniences of the past, like having to share an internet connection and a phone line, or walking to school ten miles in the snow.
Contact Our Writer – Alysa Salzberg