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December 15, 2016

How Geisinger's CEO plans to eliminate the waiting room—'and everything it represents'

Daily Briefing

Over the past year, Geisinger Health System has refunded dissatisfied patients' out-of-pocket costs—which has helped system leaders hone in on one particular area of irritation: wait times, writes President and CEO David Feinberg in a post on LinkedIn.

The program has helped improve the system's patient satisfaction scores, according to Feinberg. Further, it has allowed hospital leaders to see exactly what frustrates patients—and wait times consistently tops the list, he said.

To fix it, Feinberg would "like to eliminate the waiting room and everything it represents."

To Feinberg, the waiting room tells patients that the doctor's time is more important than their own. But organizations increasingly are moving away from that provider-centric model, he writes, and focusing more on the patient.

"When your child is suicidal or your wife has breast cancer or your parent fell down in the bathroom and they're bleeding, the last thing you want to do is sit and wait," he writes. "We need to increase access and availability so we can show people we see it is a privilege to take care of them—to tell patients, 'We are waiting for you.'"

Geisinger wants to eliminate wait times in the ED altogether so that patients can receive care the moment they walk in. Feinberg "really think[s] we can accomplish this in two years," he says.

Under the wait-free model, "treatment will start the moment patients enter the [ED] because remember, it's an emergency," Feinberg writes. This could manifest in many ways, including online registrations, hiring more physicians, or turning current ED waiting rooms into clinical spaces where patients can be treated.

"Treating people like a number is fine at the DMV because you don't have to go there all the time. It's not right in the health care system," Feinberg concludes. "Let's eliminate waiting rooms once and for all" (Feinberg, LinkedIn, 12/13).

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