Orthopedic surgeon Vishal Mehta thinks his profession needs to be more customer-minded.
Mehta practices with Fox Valley Orthopedics in Naperville, Geneva and Elgin. If doctors are not careful, they can lose patients who have a miserable experience waiting for extensive periods of time, he said. Mehta started a website and iPhone application MedWaitTime.com, in order to inform patients about their wait. Patients can look up their doctors, and find out the length and reason for their wait.
“You can be a great doctor, but your patient is going to have a miserable experience if they have to wait two hours,” Mehta said.
Mehta had the idea and met with an investment banker and attorney to find out what needed to be done to make it a reality. MedWaitTime was released to a pilot group in the spring of this year, he said. Anyone can now use it on the patient side. On the physician side, it is now available free to any members of the Illinois Medical Society.
The Midwest Center for Advanced Imaging in Yorkville, ATI Physical Therapy in Aurora and Kendall Immediate Care Center in Montgomery are all broadcasting their wait times and appointment availability online. Kendall Immediate Care Center Medical Director Sameer Shafi said that MedWaitTime has drastically reduced the wait time at the center, and left patients happier with the experience.“These are people who work in other places,” Shafi said.
The Kendall Immediate Care Center is an urgent care facility designed to bridge the gap between the emergency room and primary care physicians. They see patients for injuries and sickness sooner than they would be seen by a primary physician.
There can sometimes be a long wait for this type of visit. The wait time in some circumstances has been reduced from two to three hours down to about 30 minutes, through MedWaitTime. The patient can find out before the appointment how long it will be, and show up accordingly.
Kendall Immediate Care Center has been looking for a way to keep patients informed on their wait time, Shafi said. This gave them the right medium, he said.
Patients can use MedWaitTime in one of two ways. They can either check the wait times online before their appointment, or at the beginning of the day enter their information on to the site. They will be sent text messages with the up-to-date wait times before their appointment.
Mehta said he had the idea for MedWaitTime because of the most frequently asked question from patients.
“Can’t you tell us before we get to the office that you’re running late?”
The phone would have been an impractical way to send that message to patients, because of the time it would take to make multiple phone calls of that nature. It just takes a second for them to update their wait times on the system, he said. They often give a simple one-sentence explanation, such as: “Behind handling emergencies,” he said.
Mehta said he also gives himself a buffer when he updates the system, just in case he catches up. If he’s an hour behind, he may have a patient come in 45 minutes early, he said.
“This takes an uninformed wait, and turns it into an informed wait,” he said.
Fact Box: MEDWAITTIME