Reducing Wait Times

View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print

    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    AP

    Imagine a world where you could get in to see your doctor the same month that you call. Or one where the doctor's office actually calls you back when you leave a message.

    In San Diego, you'll wait an average of 24 days for a routine physical with a family practitioner according to one study.That may sound like a lot but in Los Angeles it's twice that. They'll wait an average of 59 days.

    Now, California wants to change that by becoming the first state to set time standards for HMO's.

    New regulations by the California Department of Managed Health Care aim at changing that wait time down to 10 business days for a regular appointment and 15 days to see a specialist.

    The new regulations have been in the works for seven years.

    For some working in managed health care groups, the regulations are troubling.

    "I don't see this being welcome," said Dan Dworsky, M.D., Scripps Clinic Medical Director.

    Dworsky, who hasn't seen the details of the regulations, welcomes efforts to improve the system and believes most of the top groups are already trying to speed up the time patients wait for care.

    "What we're really trying to achieve is not some arbitrary number. We're trying to get the patients in when they want to be seen," he said.

     

    Also concerning to Dworsky, meeting deadlines could put additional pressure on overworked doctors.

    "It's just not sitting down and saying 'Dan, I want you to work harder, I want you to work longer or stay after hours and see more people.' That will work for a short period of time but you won't accomplish anything because you'll burn people out," he said.

    Urgent problems will always be seen in a timely manner Dworsky said but he wonders if things like annual physicals will also fall under the 10 days rule.

    Now besides setting a 10 day wait period, the new reglations would also require doctor's offices to return your phone calls within 30 minutes.

    Physicians and other health professionals would also be available 24 hours a day.