A Hidden Cost of Healthcare: Patient Time talks about time management in healthcare. This report is important because in many cases no one really understands how much time patients spend at the doctor.

opportunity cost of waiting at the doctor’s office

How much time a year do you think you spend waiting in a doctor’s office? One thing is for sure, you definitely spend more than you want to. Economists measure costs by opportunity costs, meaning everything that is given up to get something else in return. Time spent interacting with the medical system could be used for other activities, like work and leisure. Nonetheless, spending time getting medical care is not fun. This time should be counted as part of the cost of health care. Should we bill our doctors for the time we spend on them?

This probably sounds a bit extreme, but maybe we are on to something. After all, time is money. So, although it doesn’t currently enter into our national statistics, the time that patients spend getting health care services should be reflected in the way we calculate America’s national health care expenditures.

According to the article’s author:

  • On any given day, about three percent of Americans travel from their home to receive healthcare services. If you count health care-related activities including time traveling to a doctor, waiting to see a doctor, being examined and treated, taking medication, obtaining medical care for others, and paying bills, we spend a ton of our personal time working with the medical system. The  average American spends about 1.1 hours a week obtaining healthcare.
  • Of course those people who are over the age of 60 spend almost twice as much time on healthcare than those that are ages 15-60. Also women spend about 70 percent more time on healthcare than men.

Patient time is an important input in the health care system. Failing to take an account of patient time leads us to exaggerate the productivity of the health care sector, and ultimately understate the cost of total healthcare.

real time loss: real dollars lost

The time that patients spend seeking, receiving and paying for health care services is just as real as the dollars they spend for medical services. Health care providers and insurers should be mindful of the opportunity cost of patients’ time.

Metaspire Consulting helps Dr. offices reduce wait time through efficient workflow planning.

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