Recently I had a medical test at a community hospital with free guest wireless, and I accomplished all sorts of work while waiting. The somewhat invasive procedure was fairly quick but with a longer wait than expected. However, I barely noticed. When I arrived back at my job, I had done so much work at the hospital that it felt like I had hardly been away.
Juxtapose this with waiting, as I recently did, at a physician’s office for over two hours because his surgery took longer than expected. Now, I happen to know that he is a great surgeon, so I don’t mind that he’s late to my routine appointment. But I do mind that the office does not have wireless so that I cannot be productive. Or, if the office could have let me know beforehand, I’d have been happy to remain at work and arrive for the scheduled appointment an hour later.
The managers at the hospital understand that my time is important. Why can’t all doctor’s offices and hospitals stop trivializing our time? Patients lose an incredible amount — a significant issue for young and old, but especially for workers paid by the hour and adult children who take time off to accompany an aging parent to a medical appointment.
If you feel like me, read The High Cost of Waiting, a May 31, 2012 Baltimore Sun article by Ritu Agarwal, a professor at the University of Maryland. The author describes how much time and productive energy we all lose waiting at doctor’s offices. I share her frustration, but I want to add hospitals to the list.
While the medical world is addressing electronic medical records (EMR’s), why not add wireless and tweak a few other digital communication techniques to help patients lose fewer workplace hours?
Much of the medical system disregards the time, sometime lots of it, that patients spend waiting for physicians, technicians, and procedures, as well as family hours lost when a loved-one is an inpatient and family members leave work to stay nearby. Much could be done to make time loss less lengthy without affecting the doctors.
Professor Agarwal notes how many easy (and low-cost) steps can be taken to give patients more control over their time while still giving physicians (and I’ll add hospital schedules) the flexibility that they need.
I agree. A patient’s time is valuable, too. With the ubiquity of electronic communications, why should patients be stranded in a non-communication zone for long periods of time, especially when medical offices clearly are using electronic communication for their work.
We are lucky here. Competition is very high for medical dollars so if we wait more than 15 minutes it is unusual. I remember spending hours at a time waiting with my dad or mom at the dr. office or hospital for some medical treatment and I never appreciated it.