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Faster Isn’t Always Better

Who doesn’t like faster service? Jiffy Lube and the 15 minute oil change, drive through fast food, the 12 item or less express lane in a grocery store…all meant to save us time so we can get going and do something else. Does the same feeling about speed occur when you think about medical appointments? I know for me, sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t.

When do I want “speed” in my medical appointments? Less waiting room time would be better. There is no worse feeling than showing up for a medical appointment and know that you are not being see for an hour or so past your appointment time. In some cases, it just can’t be helped as emergency situations arise, but in many cases, it is just clinicians (doctors, dentists, physical therapists) overbooking themselves to make sure that they can cover any cancellations and no-shows in their day.

The other place I would like “speed” is getting the results from tests I have done. When you are having blood work or imaging and it is something that is making you nervous, you want to find out sooner than later…just to help with the anxiety of things. That is improving, but many medical practices still make you schedule an appointment to come back and review the results…even when the results are in your favor. That is a waste of time and in many cases a waste of money.

Where I don’t want to see “speed” is in the actual appointment. There was a recent NY Times Article that dealt with fact that most new MD’s being are being pushed to do 8 minute consultations. Is this really enough time to get to know a patient, properly diagnose and then discuss treatment? No way! This has more to do with decreasing reimbursement for office visits…to make ends meet you need more through put. The way most MD’s (etc) are paid is by the interaction or procedure…pay them less per procedure and they have to do more to make the same. The cost of everything continues to increase…but for most practioners (PT included) re-imbursement just gets less and less.

When I started as a PT over 20 years ago, we booked patients on the hour. …One full hour of treatment. In all honesty it was a little overkill, but it was how things were done. Reimbursement was better and overhead was less. Now there are many PT practices scheduling patients on 15 minute intervals, doing a lot of overlapping and getting the “throughput” to make ends meet. I am sure if you asked any therapist in those offices if they like doing it that way, they would all tell you “NO”, but it is what they have to do to make ends meet.

At Blue Hills Sports & Spine Rehabilitation, we are still treating patients, not treating their insurance companies, but as things continue to change even we may be forced to change the level of service we provide. I hate to think about it…and will resist as long as I can.

This is one case where I don’t thing “faster is better”…

Michael Vacon, PT
Concerned about the future