PATIENT DELAYS: Doctors Move to Speed Up the Process
The Los Angeles Times looks at the combination of modern consumers' lowered tolerance for waiting and long delays at hospital ERs, which researchers say is causing "a growing segment of the American work force" to put "off medical care until their problems become severe." But many institutions are trying to "speed up the process," realizing that "lengthy physician wait times mean not only inferior patient care but also wasted time from a business standpoint." According to patient surveys, the average wait time at the ER is two hours, and at doctors' offices about a half hour. Maureen Bisognano of the Boston-based Institute for Healthcare Improvement said many physician groups are tackling the issue through a combination of staffing improvements and assembly line principles. "The average patient is becoming more consumer-oriented. And they're viewing health care as a commodity, where service is key," said Irwin Press of the consulting group Press, Ganey Associates. "With increasing consumer orientation, I would expect you'd find increasing dissatisfaction with waiting times," he said. But others don't see a problem with waits. Mark Bell, associate director of emergency services at Encino Hospital, owned by Tenet Healthcare, "said he feels the emergency room's wait times are not a problem" because "care is immediate for life-threatening ailments" (Robinson-Jacobs, Los Angeles Times, 4/6).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.