If I Were A Doctor … Impatient Patients

There have been a number of articles recently about the changing relationship between doctors and their patients, or what might be called their “impatient patients.”

As an impatient patient, why should I have be at your office for my first visit 15 to 30 minutes early to deal with paperwork that is essentially the same as I have filled out for every doctor I have ever visited. Give me a standard set of forms. Post them on your Web site and let me download them so I can do this one more time and then just update as necessary for future doctors. You and future doctors are asking for information about me; give me a tool and I will take care of that.

Better yet, help me find them in a place like Google Health or Microsoft Health Vault or somewhere similar. After I make the appointment, I can review the forms, fill them out and send them to you. Have a general medical set, insurance set, HIPAA set, specialty set, etc. In the future I may have to fill out a new form for a new specialist and update a couple of fields but that is easier than filling out every form for every doctor. In any case, let me do it on my free time rather than as part of my appointment.

It could also include a list of recent tests and a history of standard things like my weight, blood pressure, etc. that could be accessed in advance. If my standard form shows that I had a PSA test in 2009 and the reason I am coming for this appointment might make my PSA level of interest, your system (or assistant) could have that information in the office when I arrive.

One of these forms should also give you a list of my other providers in case you need to communicate with any of them before my appointment or want to send them a follow up report. Or better yet, let me know that you can use the list already in my Google Health file which includes specialty, addresses, and phone numbers.

It should include a list of my meds from Google Health or a similar service. This will give you accurate data from my pharmacist that is date stamped so you can see what I have taken and am taking. Almost certainly better than the records I bring with me today. Saves me some more time and you get better data. That will also give you information about my pharmacy of choice.

Send my prescription to my pharmacy of choice. Why should I have to make two trips to the pharmacy? One to drop it off and one to pick it up or wait 30 minutes. I want to make just one stop and not have to wait to pick it up.

We all know doctors run late. You truly have life threatening emergencies. But that doesn’t mean I should sit in your office if I have something better to do with my time — I almost always do even if it is to go someplace private and make some phone calls. (Don’t you hate it when people make cell phone calls in your office?). If you are going to run 30 minutes late, have your appointment system or assistant call me as soon as you know. Ask me if I would like to be notified if you are delayed further, push “1” for yes or “2” for no.

If you get lucky and make up some time and get to your office before I do, take care of the little old lady who was scheduled after me but has been sitting in your office for more than an hour because she doesn’t have a cell phone. She will appreciate it and I will appreciate the reduced impact of your unavoidable lateness.

Stay open to iPhone apps and other tools that will help both of us make better use of our time. Not for all of your patients — that day is probably somewhere in the future. But start using it now. You and I other adventuresome folks can experiment knowing that we will encounter a learning curve to be climbed.

I know you have better things to do than play on the bleeding edge of technology. On the other hand, if I work through the learning curve with one of my other doctors, I will expect you to have it right the first time we use it. And, if I start with you, I will be trained to do it your way. If you are reading this, I would rather work with you.


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