How IT is making healthcare better for consumers and providers

October 6, 2014

It's one of the most dreaded parts of our daily lives: the waiting room at the doctor's office. Almost everyone has a horror story about a time when he or she was forced to wait an unbearably long time just to get out of the waiting room and into patient care where they were forced to wait even longer to see the doctor. Even worse than sitting in a waiting room is waiting weeks, if not months for needed treatment.

Healthcare wait times not sector specific
While Americans have shorter wait times than many other industrialized countries, the New York Times reported that for many people in the United States long waits are becoming the norm . From general health providers to specialists, Americans are finding that wait times for treatment are increasing.

The Times reported that a poll of healthcare providers found that the average wait time to see a dermatologist for a skin care issue was 29 days. In Boston, patients waited an average of 66 days to get a physical and Washington residents found themselves waiting about 33 days for a heart exam. While patients looking to see specialists have seen higher wait times, the amount of time a sick person has to wait to see a general care provider has grown.

"It's the primary care where we're really behind, with many people waiting six days or more," said Robin Osborn, a researcher for The Commonwealth Fund.

How IT can solve the problem
It benefits both patients and providers when wait times are shorter. One obstacle to solving this problem is that patients come in unpredictable ebbs and flows – last minute appointments, cancelations and walk-ins can throw off even the most rigorous schedule.

Like it does for so many other businesses, IT is stepping in to solve the problem and the results have been immediate. InformationWeek reported that some clinics in San Antonio, Texas are using "get-in-line" systems. Patients can check in and reserve their spot in line using mobile or desktop solutions in advance of showing up at the office. They can log into their account and check the queues at all of the providers in their area and choose where they will receive treatment based on the lines. This is just one way that IT is integrating itself into the industry by freeing up vital information for the purpose of decision making on both the consumer and provider side of things.

"It's been good for our staff, our patients love it, and we love it. For us, it lets us know what the day's going to look like. For the patient, it gives them the ability to get their life back," said Linda Ratner, owner of Impact Urgent Care.