How To Use Twitter To Reduce Wait Times, Anxiety and More

My kids’ doctor is great, but we can wait over two hours to see him. Here’s my suggestion to him and anyone enduring mind-numbing wait times
Click here to skip to my answer.

A Waiting Room
Hospital waiting room (CP file photo)*
I’m not complaining about the system

Relatively speaking, up here in the Great White North – Canada, we have little to complain about our socialized medical system. Of course, it could always be better but please note my emphasis on the word “Relatively“. So this post is not a bitch-fest, but really about accepting things for the way they are today and trying to offer a tiny, practically free way of making some peoples’ lives a little bit better.

The routine

We’re lucky! Whenever either of our kids – Sara, or, Alex get sick, or, need a routine check-up we take them to their pediatrician – Dr. DaCosta, who works out of a clinic less than five minutes from home. We have two options: We can book an appointment with our doctor, or, go to the walk-in clinic any morning from 8 AM to 9 AM. Either way, all the doctors have access to our kids charts so everyone is in the loop.

Naturally, we book routine check-ups with Dr. DaCosta. But depending on the severity when one of them gets sick, or, hurt, we weigh the delay getting an appointment with Dr. DaCosta, or, going to the walk-in clinic. Since Dr. DaCosta also works out of the amazing Montreal Children’s Hospital, that delay could sometimes be a week.

The look

If you have kids you know the “look”. It’s the look when they’re just not themselves. It’s the look when you acknowledge they’re not bouncing off the walls laughing but possibly lethargic. It’s the look when you realize the Tempra isn’t working and it’s two days now. It’s the look when you start to feel useless. It’s the look when you look to your partner in life for answers. It’s the look when your partner in life looks back at you because she already read the sentence before the last. πŸ™‚ It’s the look when you want to see their doctor.

The waiting room

Dr. DaCosta is a great guy! He spends as much time as we need with him. He never rushes us. He writes things down on paper for us to make sure we understand & remember what to do. These are amazing attributes in a pediatrician! There’s nobody I’d rather wait to see than Dr. Costa when my kids are sick – especially when they have the look.

Now, I can understand when you show up at the clinic, or, hospital, the wait time is going be long. I can understand that when you show up for a scheduled appointment, there’s going to be a wait-time – especially with a pediatrician like ours. But that wait-time is regularly over two hours. And for all of you parents out there, you know what that two hours is like. You’re not only are you dealing with your sick kid. You may also be dealing with a healthy sibling whom you had no choice but to haul along for the ride. You may also be dealing with an anxious partner feeling guilty because they just couldn’t help out. Most likely, you may also be dealing with an over-crowded waiting room full of folks just like you & yours. Most likely, you may start to wonder what other diseases your kids are going to pick up now and if it’s worse than what they already have. And then of course, you’ve got other issues going on in your life like work, or, obligations that are just not going to be met.

Answer

It is what it is, let’s move on

The truth is, at least in my little corner of the world, I actually don’t mind seeing the doctor two hours later. But I do mind waiting two hours and especially under those circumstances mentioned above. So here’s my step-by-step suggestion for the waiting rooms of doctor’s, hospital’s, clinic’s, or, any place with long waits:

Setup

  1. Get a Twitter account.
    1. If you need a little background, check out My Five Ws of Twitter in less than 10 minutes (video included)
    2. If you want to see the power of Twitter, watch Monittering Twitter – The Obama Inauguration Experiment
    3. YIf you want click-by-click instructions,check out Amanda Kondolojy‘s How to Create a Twitter Account
  2. Ask patients if they have a Twitter account. If they don’t then suggest to them they read this post while they’re waiting πŸ™‚ .
  3. If they do, ask them if they would like to be notified of delays and give them your Twitter account so they can Follow you. If they don’t, they will one day soon.

Procedure

  1. Pick a time interval, like 30 minutes
  2. Simply tweet your delay. For example: “We are currently experiencing a 2 hour delay.”
    1. You cold even allow those with scheduled appointments to Reply, or, Direct message you back with cancellations. For example: “We are currently experiencing a 2 hour delay. Please reply if you are not longer able to make your appointment.” By the way, our clinic charges $30 CAD for not cancelling an appointment 60 minutes in advance. Under these conditions, maybe they should waive that charge in the name of customer service.
  3. Reassess the situation and if need be go to step 2
  4. Wait for step 1

Benefits

  1. Your patients can stay in the comfort of their own home until it really is time to show up for their appointment
  2. Your patients can keep their germs at home
  3. You can keep your germs – like the ones on those waiting room toys, away from your patients
  4. Your patients’ family members are less inconvenienced
  5. Your patients & their family are less stressed out
  6. Your waiting room is less crowded
  7. Your patients still see their doctor and receive proper treatment
  8. Your staff and doctors will be less stressed out
  9. Your staff and doctors may even be afforded the time to provide better care and custoemer service

Connection issues?
If your office has an Internet connection then all you need is a browser. If your office and/or patients don’t have an Internet connection then there’s always Twitter’s mobile phone text messaging option, as described in the click-by-click instructions above. Depending on your mobile providers’ packages there may, or, may not be a charge. For those of us in Canada, Bell Mobility is our only text messaging option. Finally, you can take a look at Al Sacco‘s review of Best (Free) Mobile Twitter Apps for BlackBerry, iPhone, Windows Mobile.

Why not give it a try?

Chances are pretty good that someone working in your office is already using Twitter. So setting up an account and tweeting is second nature for them. Just ask. And believe me, I know the people working in your office are swamped. But maybe they wouldn’t be so swamped if you didn’t have patients at reception lined up out the door.

What do you think?

Do you know of anyone using twitter like this? Are you going to give it a try? If so, then please come back and share your experiences we can all benefit.

* Photo credit: Hospital waiting room (CP file photo)

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6 Replies to “How To Use Twitter To Reduce Wait Times, Anxiety and More”

  1. Brilliant idea! Yet another way twitter can be used to make our lives easier. The only gotcha I forsee is if the estimated times aren’t accurate. I used a web check-in clinic in the past where you register for a place in the Dr. queue on line, and wait at home until they call you for an appointment. Well, I still ended up waiting almost 2 hours to see the doctor! No matter what technology is used, the human factor will always be in play. πŸ™‚

  2. I am extremely lucky in that my husbands employer has their own health clinic, so I rarely wait for more than 10 minutes.
    However, I have been in to see other doctors where the wait time has been long over 2 hours. This is an amazing idea! It would be nice to see this go mainstream.

  3. Excellent. Would love to see more examples like this, where twitter can turn normal mundane (and sometimes) frustrating functions/actions into a better overall experience. Let’s hope a few avant garde doctors/dentists are listening!

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