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Video appointments might not have an obvious slot in your schedule
Many physicians who use Confrere get started by scheduling video appointments into their calendars in the same way that they schedule appointments at the office.
However, physicians who have used video appointments report that they rarely last as long as the alotted 20 minutes, if even 15. Thus they end up with an excess of time left over before their next appointment, but not enough time to accomplish anything. It feels like wasted time.
Why are video appointments shorter than in-person appointments?
Based on what physicians and patients have shared with us, we understand that video appointments are shorter than appointments at the doctor’s office due, first and foremost, to social norms.
During a regular in-person appointment, time is given to small things, like getting the patient from the waiting room, letting them hang up their coat, maybe talking a little bit about the weather or other small talk. At the office, jumping right into the reason for the visit and then disappearing as soon as the last question is answered can come off as impolite to both to the doctor and to the patient. In video calls, however, we tend to feel that small talk and taking up time with something irrelevant is the thing that is impolite.
In the end, this makes it so that video appointments tend to be some minutes shorter than in-person appointments when the reason for the visit is similar.
Video-hours: Beneficial to both doctor and patient
Many doctors have had success with setting aside a period of time each day to have video appointments, calling it “video-hours”. It’s similar to the way in which many doctors organize their time for making phone calls.
Video-hours have several advantages:
- By concentrating all video appointments into a certain period of the day, one does not have to constantly switch between two ways of working.
- By having video-hours rather than booking individual appointments at various times, one doesn’t have to worry about excess time left over between appointments. You can simply bring in the next video patient as soon as you're finished with the last.
- By delegating 2-3 time slots a week to video-hours - time slots that would otherwise have been used for in-person appointments - one is able to see more patients per day without having to lengthen office hours. That is because video appointments tend to be shorter, and because one doesn’t have excess time between each patient.
Which patients might benefit from video-hours?
Many patients who call the doctor’s office are in need of an appointment that same day, and allotted time slots for urgent appointments are usually filled up quickly. However, many of these patients do not require physical examination, but are rather seeking medical advice or guidance.
In a small survey conducted by Confrere and in collaboration with a physician who offers urgent appointments, the physician concluded that 14 of the 27 appointments could have been done over video. Almost 3 out of 4 of these patients reported that they could have had a video appointment instead so that they didn’t have to go all the way to the doctor’s office.
Many of those who wish to meet with their PCP same day are parents of infants and young children. When unable to get an appointment at the doctor’s office, they look for alternatives like public or private urgent care centers and emergency rooms, or private telemedicine doctors who are only reachable via video (often through a video-doctor app). For this patient group, a video appointment with their PCP would be a great option, it would build a stronger relationship between the doctor and patient, and it would help strengthen the PCP’s gatekeeper role.
How the doctor’s office can implement video-hours
Based on the feedback we’ve received from physicians who use Confrere, here are the easiest ways to implement video-hours:
- Begin by creating a 30-minute slot for video-hours, once-a-week. Try Mondays, for instance, so that you can see patients for whom the need for an appointment arose over the weekend.
- Video-hours can be scheduled right after lunch so that you won’t have to worry about falling behind due to earlier delays.
- Inform your medical secretary of your video-hours arrangement so that they may offer the option to patients who contact the office seeking an urgent appointment, telephone consultation, or notifications about available appointments.
- Decide how you would like to receive payment for video appointments.
- Decide how you would like to inform your patients about your video appointment offer.
- Make sure that you schedule video-hours into your calendar.