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Chicago-Area Orthopedic Surgeon Invents Web-Based Tool to Alert Patients of Wait Times
From: Becker's Orthopedic Back & Spine

Vishal Mehta, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with Geneva, Ill.-based Fox Valley Orthopedics, has developed and launched a new web-based tool designed to alert patients of physician office and hospital department wait times.

The tool, MedWaitTime, allows patients to check the status of their physician up to two hours in advance of their appointment time, allowing the patient to arrive late if the physician is running behind. Patients can also opt-in to receive text messages of their physician's status or download an iPhone app to receive updates, according to the report.

Dr. Mehta developed the tool with two partners in response to patient complaints about wait times for office visits. "Even with the best of intentions, [physicians] can often run an hour or an hour and a half behind schedule due to acute cases that need to be seen," says Dr. Mehta. "Patients would say they understand this happens, but why couldn't we call and let them know we're running late?"

Dr. Mehta felt their pain and talked to his secretary about manually calling patients throughout the day, but determined the practice didn't have the resources needed for calls. "That's when we knew it had to be automated," he says.

Physician groups or hospitals that subscribe to the service provide patients with the MedWaitTime website where they can sign up to receive the alerts, which either lets the patient know the physician is running on time or informs the patient how many minutes late they can arrive and a reason for the delay.

The website has also been designed to allow patients to view emergency room wait times in their area or next available appointments by specialty by simply entering their zip code. "In the past, most hospitals with publicized wait times had developed their own tools for this," says Dr. Mehta. "[MedWaitTime] gives hospitals and physicians a national platform."

MedWaitTime already has a growing number of physician practices and five hospital systems as clients, charging $50 per month to physicians and $300 per month to hospital departments to use the tool. "We didn't want this tool to be out of reach of any physician. You have to think about the individual doctor practice in rural America," says Dr. Mehta.

Dr. Mehta believes the tool will take off given the mindset of many young physicians who feel guilty about keeping patients waiting "It's just rude. I wouldn't show up to meet someone at Starbucks for coffee an hour late without letting them know," he says. "Maybe older surgeons had a different mindset, but the younger ones realize it's not good for anyone."