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How Physicians Can Reduce Patient Wait Times

Anna Webster, for HealthLeaders Media, December 1, 2010

Rod Christensen, MD, district medical director at Allina Medical Clinic, which has more than 45 locations in Minnesota and Wisconsin, is also advocating change in the healthcare delivery model. A pilot program at Allina suggests that increasing the number of clinical assistants will improve "quality access and productivity of physicians," says Christensen. 

Shaking the status quo
Physician education plays a huge role in how healthcare will change in the next 10 years because changing the status quo is never easy for doctors who are set in their ways, Christensen says. Support and training classes for physicians and adopting new technology such as EHRs at clinics will help practices meet increased patient demand. 

In addition, physicians will need to be increasingly flexible, perhaps adding more office hours or being open to pilot programs, Winters says.

Having physicians change their processes takes leadership. "We start with pilots and we have physician champions who go around and teach how to use new protocols," says Winters.

One of the new protocols Winters is advocating is the patient-centered medical home, which makes the physician responsible for the patient wherever he or she travels. In addition, the use of care coordinators is an ongoing initiative at HealthTexas Provider Network to help prepare facilities to become accountable care organizations

Christensen stresses the importance of patient education to help reduce the number of unnecessary phone calls or visits as well. Support staff such as pharmacists, nurses, and nutritionists should provide patients with information on their condition and should be encouraged to answer patient questions.

Other solutions healthcare leaders recommend to prepare for the influx of patients include e-messaging, e-visits, and group clinics. "We don't think healthcare will be one size fits all—we think more patients need to be reached in more ways," says Christensen.

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2 comments on "How Physicians Can Reduce Patient Wait Times"


Yasser (8/2/2012 at 12:34 AM)
In OPD you need to run the clinics by units not by one or two physicians only , it means that the whole unit on call will cover the OPD starting from interns through GPs to consultants , this needs 3 or 4 clinics for the unit of medicine for one consultant and the same will be applied for all units in all departments, this will cover all patients in the same day without appointment .

tyco brahe (12/2/2010 at 1:53 PM)
Interesting how we blame Canada for such long patient wait times, when this analysis shows that, under our current system, wait times in the US to see a doctor are LONG! The average wait time in Canada is 3 weeks. Seems like it's the same or even longer here in the US.