The consequences of long wait times can be severe, especially for patients. Direct correlations can be drawn from longer waiting times to increased ED utilization. If the costs associated with unnecessary ED visits weren’t enough, add to that the cost of missed appointments. According to data collected by MyHealthDirect, included in a recent article published by The New England Journal of Medicine, the longer patients wait for an appointment, the greater the chance they won’t show up. The correlation couldn’t be clearer: long waits mean more no-shows.
(This graph, featured in the NEJM article, shows the relationship between waiting times for appointments and no-show rates)
So, why does this happen, and what are the implications?
The emotional effects on patients as they wait are strenuous. Feelings of uncertainty as they wait for hours, days, or even weeks to see a specialist create a stressful and dissatisfactory experience. This can result in patients deciding to avoid the healthcare system altogether, perhaps not receiving the care that they need. Or they can simply forget! People are busy and remembering the appointment you booked for this Friday two months ago can easily slip through the cracks.
The problems don’t stop with missed appointments and unnecessary ED visits either. To compensate for the fiscal implications of potential no-shows, some practices will double-book patients. This creates a backlog when people do show for their scheduled appointments and patients must wait too long to receive care. Quality suffers and the patients that do make it in, leave unsatisfied.
There is a simple solution to this pressing problem: create a digital network.
When patients are referred to specialists there are many challenges. Among these is the fact that the patient is often left to book the follow up appointment on their own. By creating a digitally connected network of providers, a patient can be booked for their specialist visit before ever leaving the physician. This ensures the referral appointment is even scheduled to begin with. But that’s just the beginning.
Once the digital network is in place, optimization becomes the focus. Just listen to our client, Humana on how they worked with us to analyze and improve referral work-flows to cut wait times in half.
To learn more about this we invite you to download our case study which examines how creating a digital network improves referral coordination dramatically.