Re-imagining the Doctor’s Appointment

Jo JoThink about your experience in going to a standard doctor’s appointment. You fight traffic or parking hassles to get to the doctor’s office. You often wait past your appointment time in the lobby, and once you actually get into the exam room, you wait again for the doctor to actually arrive. While it may be a few minutes, it can sometimes feel excruciatingly long. The doctor arrives, and despite all the paperwork and information you shared with the receptionist or the nurse, you repeat much of this information. Once you finish your exam and discussion with the doctor – during which you sometimes take notes, sometimes not – you walk out and have that awkward moment at the front desk, wondering if you can leave freely or if you owe large sums of cash.

Sound familiar? Perhaps. Sound like many other consumer experiences these days? Not really. The simple truth is that tech-enabled consumer experiences – from booking restaurants and flights to ride requests and mobile commerce – have changed our expectations as a society. We expect
to have more control over when and where we have these experiences. We don’t wait, or if we do, we know exactly how long we will have to wait. In comparison to other consumer experiences, the doctor appointment experience — from self-diagnosis to follow-up — fails to meet today’s new standards for convenience, information and speed.

Think about the typical journey. 70 percent of people are researching symptoms and ailments online before going to the doctor, but more than half (54%) don’t write down or capture this information and other medical information before going to the doctor. We live in a world of online reservations and booking, but 88% of doctor’s appointments are still scheduled by phone, subject to wait times and potential back-and-forth. Another potential breakdown in the patient journey is communicating the purpose for the doctor visit and checking in to the appointment. Because so many are booking appointments via phone, 70 percent of people explain the purpose of their visit to the receptionist over the phone, hoping that the information is accurately captured and communicated to the doctor.

And when you arrive, the litany of forms begins.

More than one in four people say they have to show their insurance information at the front desk. And then you wait: 85% of patients reported seeing their health care provider anywhere between 10 to 30 minutes past their scheduled appointment time. Once you’re able to meet with the doctor and finish the appointment, you have to figure out how much this is all costing you. Less than half of patients say they are clear about how much they had to pay upon leaving the doctor’s office.

Sound stressful? In fact, it is. These experiences are real and are creating peripheral stress – stress beyond the actual physical ailment – for the patient. My company Sequence uncovered these patient insights in a new survey report, No Room For Waiting. We  asked more than 2,000 consumers questions related to the end-to-end journey to the doctor, from scheduling to follow-up. The findings confirmed that the simple visit to the doctor’s office lags in meeting consumer expectations and can create peripheral stress for the patient.

63 percent reported that their biggest stress related to the doctor’s appointment is waiting in the lobby, and all of the uncertainty that it causes. Another 33 percent said they get stressed when the doctor shows up for the appointment and doesn’t know the reason for their visit.

Patients are not always getting a consumer-grade experience and they are suffering for it. Why does this matter? On average, consumer health care expenditures are four times the amount spent on everyday products and services like smartphones. Why are consumers tolerating a sub-par experience when it comes to the most important thing in their lives – their health?

With these functional breakdowns in the patient experience, how can we reimagine and redesign the experience of going to the doctor? We challenged the creative minds at Sequence to come up with a solution that takes the stress of waiting and many other steps out of the physical doctor’s office entirely.

The design prototype, a proposed connected product and service called “On Call”, re-imagines the average doctor’s visit and delivers a more personalized patient experience by replacing the waiting room with the living room. Information is captured and communicated electronically and the appointment is brought into the house, a less stressful environment.

As the health care industry continues to shift towards digital tools, the key to reducing patient stress is to connect all the different steps together and ensure that information is accurately captured and communicated at each step of the process. This has the possibility to deliver more than convenience; it can deliver better outcomes.

Jojo Roy is the CEO of Sequence. He’ll be delivering an extended version of these results in a “lunch & learn” talk at HxRefactored in Boston on April 5

CODA: Survey Highlights:

Below are some key data points from the survey report. You can also download the full “No Room for Waiting” report here.

Six Steps in the Patience Experience:

To address the stress points and patient behavior, Sequence asked consumers about six different steps of the patient experience of scheduling and going to a doctor’s appointment. Here’s what we found:

  1. Symptom Check (Am I Dying?!)
  • 70% say they research their medical conditions online before calling a doctor or going in for an appointment
  • 54% do not write down symptoms or what drugs they’re taking before going in for a doctor’s appointment
  1. Making the Appointment
  • 88% say they call the doctor’s office to schedule the appointment
  • 18% say they go online to the doctor’s or health care provider’s website to schedule the appointment
  1. Office Visit
  • 85% of people reported seeing their health care provider anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes past their scheduled appointment time
  • 61% would prefer a text alert before they leave home, knowing full well that they won’t be seen on time
  • 55% wish they had access to estimated wait times through a screen in the waiting room to help manage their expectations
  1. Checking in
  • 70% of people explain the purpose for the visit to the receptionist ahead of time
  • 33% say they document this information through an online health portal
  • Only one in three (34%) say they are confident that the person behind the front desk knows who they are and the reason for their visit
  • 26% say they always have to show them their most current insurance information
  1. Checking Out
  • Less than half of the respondents said they were clear about how much they had to pay upon leaving the doctor’s office
  • 33% of millennials would prefer to use a mobile pay solution to quickly determine these costs
  1. Following Up
  • 10% of millennials admit to not understanding what is being said to them during the visit
  • 15% of millennials are unclear on follow up steps
  • Almost half of respondents said they would like to have follow up information or communication via a secure web or mobile portal

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2 replies »

  1. Thank you Jojo for all of the statistics. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one experiencing discomfort when visiting the doctor. The “hurry up and wait”…and wait…and wait doctor visits do aggravate and stress people. As a millennial/borderline Gen-X myself I do expect more technology to be used when interacting with doctor offices. I understand how a living room environment may seem more relaxing, but I’m not really convinced that it will be a better a solution. Guess I’ll just have to experience it first and test it out. Thanks for the blog. – Angelica

  2. No doubt that the doctor appt experience needs a major overhaul. One component not mentioned but needing attention is phlebotomy. That is why Iggbo ( decided to create an uber-like technology for mobile, on-demand specimen collection. With this shift in healthcare towards better patient experiences and outcomes, Iggbo currently operates at a 97% appointment integrity with over 99% patient satisfaction. There isn’t a better innovative digital tool for phlebotomy, whether an in office or home visit!

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