Case Study: Patient Exam Time Value

Patient Exam Time

Earlier today I had the opportunity to frequent one of the local healthcare organizations with a family member. We arrived on time for their appointment, 12 noon, and they were greeted by the front desk reception. They verified the personal information and insurance and proceeded to ask them to take a seat and wait.

“They will be with you shortly to take you back.”

20 minutes later a nurse called their name and brought them back to the exam room. The nurse proceeded to verify the information, ask several questions, and also asked, “Are you okay with a student coming to witness your care today?”

The patient responded with a yes.

The nurse proceeded to leave. (12:20-12:25)

Again, after another 20 minutes of waiting the student PA entered the room, but all by herself. The student PA began to ask additional questions, take some notes, and then stated that the physician will be in shortly. (12:40-12:45)

At about 5 minutes after 1pm, the patient decided to go to the nurses station and again inquire what was going on and how long it would take for the physician to come in for the exam. The nurses stated that it would only be a few more moments.

At about 13:15 the physician walked into the room. The physician apologized for the delay and explained how their day was “blowing up” and they had to be there until 7pm. They proceeded to say how they know the rest of the day is going to continue to get worse.

The physician spent 4 minutes checking out the “cyst” and confirmed that it was nothing to be concerned over. The physician informed the patient that as long as it doesn’t cause any discomfort that it is perfectly fine. If the patient wanted to have it removed, to call and make an appointment at a later date. The physician got up and walked out.

The time was 13:21

Out of a total of 81 minutes only 9 minutes were spent in providing value to the patient. I would challenge that I am being generous, and that the value added time to the patient was far less.

9/81 minutes or just more than 10% of the total time for the patient was spent in direct face to face time with someone from the care team.

No one from the care team ever came into the room to address the additional waiting time. No one came to give an update. No one provided any additional information that the physician was running late due to unforeseeable circumstances.

The physician spent the first sentence on an apology, but quickly turned the rest of the conversation to themselves; how bad their day is, how worse it is going to get, and that they are scheduled until 7pm.

Let’s assume a primary care physician makes an average of $160, 000 a year. That would mean that on average they make about $1.30 per minute.

For this appointment, the physician spent $5.20 in time with the patient.

Let’s assume the patient makes $41,600 a year, or $20 an hour. On average the patient makes about $0.33 per minute.

For this appointment, the patient spent $26.70 in time with the healthcare organization.

More importantly, due to the lack of communication and effort, there is a high probability that the patient will choose to see a different physician in the future.

A simple and periodic update on the progress of the physician would have generated enough value to keep the patient satisfied.

Giving the patient an option of continuing to wait, reschedule, or to see another provider would have delighted the patient.

Communication is simple and costs next to nothing to do.

Choosing not to communicate with patients costs us Time and Trust.

Is time and trust worth $26.70?

I believe its far more valuable.

I choose to spend the time and communicate.

What will you choose?

As always, you can feel free to contact me at: CANCERGEEK@GMAIL.COM or follow me on twitter @cancergeek



3 responses to “Case Study: Patient Exam Time Value

  1. The patient’s time spelled out in dollars and cents vs. that of the doctor’s clearly communicates the “value” – both emotionally and financially – of the visit. Patients need to be heard.

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