We’ve all been there…. You wait 3 hours in a clinic waiting room only to see the doctor for 10 minutes. Out of 11 countries, Canadians wait the longest in a few categories: to see a family doctor, at the emergency room, or to see a specialist (Addressing Canadian Wait Times, 2019). In some cases, this can result in patients to delay seeking care because the wait seems inconvenient or too long.
Telehealth can help mitigate this in a few ways:
The first being an online appointment booking/queuing system. This can help with the administrative hassle of booking appointments and allows patients to select a time that works for both the provider and the physician. This is even the case with some walk-in clinics – providing a list of timeslots and allowing patients to “line up” and fill out paperwork online means saving time both on the patient and provider side. An additional benefit being the decreased contact in a physical doctors office at one time. This is especially important as we navigate a global health crisis, but even at the best of times an overcrowded waiting room can’t be healthy for anyone. Additionally, with an online booking system comes the ability to cancel or reschedule for a later date – without the administrative hassle. The ability for patients to change or cancel their appointment can reduce the risk of no-shows, saving health care facilities time and money.
Another telehealth implementation that may help reduce wait times are video/audio consults. With the onset of social-distancing, many have taken up virtual consultations to provide and receive care. Not only does this help prevent the spread of disease, but it also may help patients be seen faster. For example, if a patient was seeking a referral to a specialist and did not require care from the physician themselves, it may be more efficient to speak to a provider online than come in the clinic.
A third benefit could be the ability to screen patients before they present to the clinic or health facility. What if we could screen patients’ condition before they showed up to an ER or walk-in? Assess whether or not the patient is in need of emergency care or if they have a mild health concern and can be seen at a later time? Telehealth technology can help screen patients by collecting medical history, symptoms, and reason for care beforehand to help doctors determine where to direct patients.
Sometimes there is a surplus of patients and not enough providers on a given day. This is especially the case in smaller facilities where they may only have one or two physicians working a shift. With a telehealth strategy implemented, doctors have the ability to better allocate their time, saving time between patients and allowing them to be seen on a more efficient basis.
It should be noted that waiting for health care is not health care. We have the ability to provide better care – telehealth can ensure it’s being provided in a timely manner.
Addressing Canadian Wait Times With Telehealth (2019) On Call Health Blog. Retrieved August 24th, 2020 from https://blog.oncallhealth.ca/addressing-canadian-wait-times-with-telehealth-0