Tuesday, January 19, 2010

California to Regulate Doctor Wait Times

Ok, here's an idea, have government mandate how long it takes for you to see a doctor. Don't believe it? Well, California, in their infinite wisdom, is doing just that. I read this story and it just made my skin crawl. It is from The Los Angeles Times and it is entitled, "California Limits HMO Wait Times."
The regulations by the California Department of Managed Health Care, in the works for much of the last decade, will require that patients be treated by HMO doctors within 10 business days of requesting an appointment, and by specialists within 15. Patients seeking urgent care that does not require prior authorization must be seen within 48 hours.

Telephone calls to doctors' offices will have to be returned within 30 minutes, and physicians or other health professionals will have to be available 24 hours a day. California says it is the first state to set time standards for HMOs, which serve nearly 21 million of its residents.
Now, the only people who think this is a good idea are politicians. I can just hear the meetings in the back rooms at the state house - "Well really stick it to those doctors with this one." Here's the simple question - Why does it take so long to see the doctor? The answer is simple - Government and Red Tape. The government created most of this mess - really.

Now, I don't practice in California, but I know where I live, there is form after form after form to be completed associated with patient care. Much of it is trying to keep with government regulations from the state capitol and from Washington. Plus, if anyone utters the words "Pre-Authorization" - they know how much time this takes from an office staff point of view. This useless time on the phone or on a computer could be better spent - Uh, taking care of patients.

So, here is a little tip to my friends at state legislative houses across the country, and in Washington. The best way to improve wait times and overall patient care, is not to increase government regulation, but to DE-REGULATE government control over health care. Not to mention, with this additional layer of government oversight, who is going to pay for this additional oversight with a bankrupt California budget? Did anyone ask that question? Probably not....


Loose Fat Stomach said...

I wonder why politicians are doing these? Aren't they aware that we voted them in order to have that sweet spot?

Hope with this one, people will benefit.

Anonymous said...

Beyond that, telling somebody they have to get back with a patient/see a patient within a certain amount of time really limits what the person before them can get out of their visit.

Dreaming again said...

It's appalling!

Most of the doctors I see I rarely have to wait long. Occassionally, it does happen. (almost always in the orthopedics office)

Most of my appts take less time than allotted. But occassionally, very occassionally, I'll mention something that catches the doctor's attention ...and suddenly, I'm there 3 times as long as planned.

Do I want the doctor to have a running time keeper in the back of their mind (more than what already exists?) so that when I say something they either let it slip or have me make another appt to address it? (gee, just what someone with complicated medical history needs ..yet ANOTHER doctor's appt)

This is absurd and in my mind ...dangerous!

Anonymous said...

I recently waited two months for an appointment with a Ear, Nose, & Throat specialist... And this is after being sick for almost six months and repeatedly seeing my primary care doctor, and being on a half dozen different antibiotics. If it wasn't for ridiculous wait times such as mine, and pissed off patients such as myself, maybe such regulations would not be called for.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's fair to expect a call back from a doctor within a half-hour -- they do have patients to see and paperwork to deal with. Nor is it right to expect all doctors to be available 24 hours a day. Doctors need down-time too.

That said, if I'm feeling genuingly rotten and can't get in to see my doctor sooner than 10 business days, or need "urgent" care but cannot see my doctor sooner than 48 hours out, well, Houston, we have a real problem.

Those California regulations are unrealistic, obviously. No one could take them seriously -- not doctors and not patients. But something DOES need to be done when patients must wait so long to see their doctors. While they're waiting, their conditions may be worsening, which in the end might cost EVERYONE far more than it would if the patient could get treatment more promptly.

Can you imagine enduring an ear infection for 10 days?

I've always been fortunate enough to have doctors who could fit me in, should I be sick enough to call for an appointment. I'm one of those people who only calls the doc when I'm really sick. But I do understand the frustration people feel when they're ill and have to wait for days to see their doctors. We're told not to use the emergency room for anything other than real emergencies -- but this gives some people no real choice...

Agh. I'm ranting. Sorry. Good post. Thought provoking. I hope something can be done to resolve this issue that satisfies both patients and their doctors.