Technology, Philosophy, & Sometimes Both

Thoughts on the World by Jack Umano

Pledged Appointments – An Idea for Doctors (and all who schedule appointments)

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Do you hate waiting rooms?  Suggest this to your doctor: Pledged Appointments.  Pledged Appointments could provide a way for doctors to satisfy patients for whom time is most valuable.

The Problem:

Here is the dilemma that doctors, dentists, and others face.

  • Doctors don’t know how long each appointment will last.
  • Patients are occasionally late.
  • Patients occasionally don’t show up

If doctors are on time and patients are late (or absent), the doctor would waste time waiting for the next patient. Waiting for a patient is a money loss for the doctor.

The solution most doctors seem to choose is to overbook.  Overbooking will mean the doctors are never sitting waiting for patients.  However, when all patients show up, or appointments run long, or patients are late for an appointment it pushes all the following appointments later.  As the day wears on, the stacked up lateness can push appointments to start very late.

In a New York Times article The Hidden Cost of Health Care: Patient Time, it was calculated that Americans collectively spent 847 million hours waiting for medical services in 2007.  Patients are fed up…

Maybe you’ve heard about the doctor who received a bill from the patient.  The patient was a lawyer who billed the doctor for the time spent – after he waited in the waiting room too long.  I don’t know if that’s true but people are working on Punishing Doctors Who Make You Wait – punishments including everything from getting money back to scathing online reviews.

My Solution:

Doctors should present patients with an option for a Pledged Appointment.  Here’s how it would work: The patient would pay a deposit for their Pledged Appointment time.  Doctors would offer this kind of appointment in the morning or at some time when they knew they wouldn’t be delayed by earlier appointments.  Then, if the patient was on time for their appointment, they would get their deposit back.  If the patient was late, they would forfeit their deposit.  That money would compensate the doctor for his time which could have been spent with other patients.

Since Pledged Appointments are scheduled at times when the doctor is in the office already and would not be delayed, the doctor should have no trouble making the appointment.  However, if the patient pays a deposit to promise that he will be there on time, then the doctor should offer compensation to the patient if the patient is there on time and the doctor was not available at the appointment time.

This would offer both doctor and patient incentive to be there on time.  Of course, this is not for emergency rooms, or doctors who often get called away for childbirths, etc..  But a dentist, optometrist, and many others could certainly do this.

And, by the way, to make the patients happy with a Pledged Appointment, a doctor should avoid putting a patient in the examining room at the appointment time and making them wait there for 15 more mintues.  That would violate the spirit of it.  If anyone tries this, let me know how well it works.


Written by Jack Umano

March 7, 2011 at 3:52 pm

Posted in Ideas

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