A new web site and cell phone application is designed to help patients spend less time in waiting rooms before seeing a doctor. The “app,” called MedWaitTime, allows patients to check online or get a text message with a color code ranging from green (no wait) to yellow (short wait) to red (long wait).
The idea is the brainchild of Vishal Mehta, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with Fox Valley Orthopedics in suburban Chicago. “I came at this from a consumer point of view as well as a professional one,” he says. “I wouldn’t keep someone I knew personally waiting for me for 45 minutes; as a doctor, it is just plain rude to make people wait in a waiting room if you know ahead of time that you are running late.”
Just a month after launch, the service has a few dozen physicians signed up, but Mehta says the bulk of the early interest has come from hospitals, including one national system and four regional systems. Already signed up is Delnor Health System in Geneva, Ill. and MedWaitTime has inked an agreement with 13-hospital Mountain States Health Alliance, a large integrated health care system in northeast Tennessee and southwest Virginia with more than 80 physician offices and six urgent care centers.
Hospitals want to use MedWaitTime to alert people on wait times in their EDs and urgent-care centers. Patients can search by ZIP code to compare times at various facilities.
“This to me has the potential to positively affect patient satisfaction scores,” Mehta says. “The few hospitals that have tried to provide alerts on waiting times have had some success. In fact, one of them has approached us to use our system instead.”
For medical practices, the service has another important function. It allows patients to search their area for primary-care doctors and specialists who are currently accepting walk-in appointments. “Sometimes a physician will have the opposite problem than long waits – trying to fill up an open block on their schedule,” Mehta says.
MedWaitTime is charging doctors $50 a month and hospitals $300 a month per department. It is also offering providers a free one-month trial of the service.