How long should a five-minute appointment last?

This is not a variation of the “Who’s buried in Grant’s tomb?” question we used to put to all job applicants.

Wait times at clinics/hospitals are a source of agitation for patients, providers and staff.

Most of us are used to checking into a clinic / hospital at 9:55 for a 10 AM appointment  – the arrival time at the point of care is carefully calculated by taking into account distance, traffic conditions, weather, time to find a parking spot, and time to walk from the car to the waiting room.

Whoever coined the word “waiting room” had a good understanding of reality – the usual scenario, on arrival, is that you discover that ten others have a 10 AM appointment. Yes, with the same doctor.

Unlike restaurants where you are given a device that vibrates/beeps when they are ready for you, your options in a waiting room are to just sit there for an hour or two, hoping that no one in close proximity is contagious.

Why do clinics/hospitals do such a poor job managing time?

There are two reasons – one is the time to process a patient varies.  Another is failure to make use of available technology.

Whereas it is possible to model patient throughput and anticipate patient processing times to some extent, the low-hanging fruit clearly is to use auto-resource allocation, leveling and balancing technology.

Scheduling in multi-disciplinary clinics/hospitals poses a number of challenges but a step in the right direction is to have on hand “best practice” templates and have software guide the processing along instances of these templates.

Auto-resource allocation software can be used to distribute workload across providers and can help to prevent things from falling between the cracks. Add to this supervisor leveling and balancing across staff and you have a basis for more efficient processing of patients.


Management consultant and process control engineer (MSc EE) with a focus on bridging the gap between operations and strategy in the areas of critical infrastructure protection, connect-the-dots law enforcement investigations, healthcare services delivery, job shop manufacturing and b2b/b2c/b2d transactions. (C) 2010-2018 Karl Walter Keirstead, P. Eng. All rights reserved. The opinions expressed here are those of the author, and are not connected with Jay-Kell Technologies Inc, Civerex Systems Inc. (Canada), Civerex Systems Inc. (USA) or CvX Productions.
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