What they found was "awful"
A new study published in the journal Health Affairs uncovered startling statistics from "secret shoppers" (yes, they exist in healthcare too) of new patients looking to contact doctor offices for appointments. What they found was, simply put, "awful."
The callers contacted 743 doctors in five different regions of California who were listed as primary care physicians in their health plans’ online directories.
“We were a little bit surprised at how bad the numbers were,” said the study’s lead author, Simon Haeder, an assistant professor of political science at West Virginia University.
About 10 percent of the time, the providers either were no longer with the medical group listed in the directory or never had been.
They found that in about 30 percent of cases, the callers were told that the doctor had a different specialty than the one listed.
About 20 percent of the time, the pseudo-patient callers were unable to reach the doctors at the numbers listed in the directories — despite repeated attempts — due to the lines being disconnected, messages not being returned, or for other reasons.
Findings "not a surprise"
These findings are “not a surprise,” said Betsy Imholz, special projects director of the advocacy group Consumers Union. “It’s a longstanding issue. In this new environment, we have to get better. That’s what our own work told us and this confirms it.”
The Health Affairs study also found that shoppers with “urgent” health problems such as high fevers or heavy bleeding during menstruation faced wait times of eight to 12 days to get an appointment.
“As our analysis has shown,” the study concludes, “access to health insurance is not necessarily synonymous with access to health care services.”
So how do we fix this communication backup and reach these 20%? Through improved communication.
Klara opens a direct channel for new and existing patients to communicate with doctors, office staff, pharmacists as well as any additional touchpoint personnel. New patients directly get an invite onto the Klara platform through which they can communicate to ensure no appointment gets overlooked.
Changing things up
Klara users find the app incredibly beneficial:
“It allows for quick, direct communication to my doctor. This was particularly useful in trying to get referrals for specialists.”
“It's amazing to use!!! No phone call wait time, and I'm sure ultimately a time and money saver. I'm glad that it's so easy to communicate with the dr.”
“It's so convenient! I work on a film set and it's hard to make phone calls with my long hours so it's amazing to be able to text my doctor!”
“I get answers to my questions faster, as my doctor can respond when she has time and I don't have to also be available to receive the response. I can attach pictures which allows me to get better diagnosis more quickly (eg on weekends and holidays)”
“I have never been able to communicate with a doctors office any way other than telephone. I think Klara is an amazing way to get appointments done quickly.”