It drives me wild to go to the doctor and be compelled to wait two or three hours. My husband has expressed his displeasure by ordering pizza delivered to the waiting room. Complain to the office manager and she blames the doctor who in turn blames the office manager. So would I pay a few hundred bucks a year for this? You bet I would.
Patient dissatisfaction with long waits is not lost on physicians, and new practice models are popping up around the country partly in response.
On its Web site, One Medical Group, a practice with five offices in San Francisco and a newly opened one in New York City, promises “same-day appointments and longer, more personalized visits that start on time.”
How does the medical group guarantee on-time appointments? The practice, which charges patients a $199 annual membership fee to join and uses information technology to help manage costs, doesn’t require that patients come in for routine ailments like urinary tract infections. Instead, the medical professionals treat them by e-mail or phone, similar to a new service in Minnesota we wrote about earlier this year. Refills are also done online. Such policies help limit the number of patients coming into the office.
In addition, the practice has adopted certain time management policies that make starting and ending appointments on time easier, said Tom Lee, medical director of One Medical Group. Because appointment times with doctors are 20 to 30 minutes for each appointment, longer than elsewhere, they don’t tend to run over as often. This also builds in extra buffer time between One Medical appointments for physicians to deal with tasks like looking over test results or filling out forms.
Email or phone treatment of common-sense ailments alone makes membership well worth the price. This is a great example of how the market can work in medical treatment – without government intervention.