Electronic Health Record (EHR) implementation has increased the documentation burden for physicians, which is essentially a concern during the patient visit. With the introduction of EHR physicians are forced to spend more time typing and documenting medical details rather than focusing on the patients. This will extend the patients visit and lead to increased physician appointment wait times. This can cause distress in patients and also distract physicians from processing the information and obstruct their workflow. EHR documentation is one of the factors contributing towards increased patient wait time, and can be addressed to a certain extent with EHR-integrated medical transcription services.
With every year physician appointment wait time is increasing. According to a study by physician search and consulting firm Merritt Hawkins, it now takes 30 percent longer to schedule a new patient appointment in 15 major metropolitan areas compared to 2014. The survey showed that 24 days is the new average to schedule a new patient appointment.
Out of 15 major metropolitan areas, Boston experiences the longest wait times with an average of 109 days to see a family physician, 45 days to visit a gynecologist, 45 days to see a cardiologist and 11 days to see an orthopedic surgeon. Dallas has the shortest waiting time with an average of 15 days. Other averages include 37 days in Philadelphia, 28 days in Portland, 28 days in Seattle, 27 days in Denver and 24 days in Los Angeles. Growing physician appointment wait time shows that there is a major shortage of physicians in the nation. Increased documentation hassle is considered one of the reasons for physician burnout.
The burden of documentation on physicians can be removed by implementing medical transcription solutions. Continuing the dictation – transcription model will allow physicians more eye-to-eye time with patients. The recorded dictations can be sent to a professional medical transcription company for accurate transcription and posting to the physician’s EMR system. Reduced documentation requirements will bring down patient wait time. Physicians could also delegate the documentation to a clinical assistant who can note down patient history, prescription and test orders, and even take notes during the actual consultation.
Other methods to reduce patients’ wait time are:
- Gathering patient information before their scheduled appointment.
- Access to a secure messaging feature that provides an alternative way to communicate important information with patients.
- Creating a policy like setting a time limit or imposing cancellation or late fee for patients who don’t show up or arrive late for their appointment.
- Use of telehealth solutions to streamline patient record gathering, prevent no show or late arrivals.
Medical transcription outsourcing is an effective solution indeed to reduce the burden of documentation. Physicians get to spend more quality time with their patients and reduce wait time. It may be impossible to avoid wait times altogether, but it can be considerably reduced. This is important to ensure that your patients are happy and that you don’t lose revenue and patients.