“Headed, I fear, toward a most useless place. The Waiting Place… for people just waiting.” – Dr. Seuss
You look down at the face of your daughter as the initial excitement of being at Disneyworld gives way to the reality of the situation at hand. She has had her heart set on riding Frozen Ever After but the full ramifications of a 300 minute wait are starting to set in. The whole day will be wasted waiting for this 3 minute experience to start.
If you’ve ever been to a Disney Park, you can identify with the situation above. It is frustrating to say the least, and waiting in line is never any fun. Now take the scenario above, substitute a Veteran for your daughter, a needed doctor’s appointment or prescription for the Frozen Ever After ride, and turn that 5 hour wait time into several days, weeks or even months. How would that situation make you feel?
Given the gravely different stakes of waiting for medical care and waiting for an amusement park ride, you may be taking exception to my analogy. However, I did not come up with the comparison, Robert McDonald did. He is the Secretary in charge of Veteran’s Affairs, and he took more than a little heat for his comments, saying that like Disney, wait times at the VA shouldn’t matter, only the end experience.
I will refrain from debating the quality of the experience of VA medical care in this blog. There are varying opinions on that subject and efforts under way to make those end experiences better. However, given that the VA chief specifically stated that Disney doesn’t track or care about wait times so they shouldn’t either, I wanted to offer a couple thoughts on that specifically.
First of all, as others have pointed out as well, Disney does track wait times, and arguably just the fact that they do means they care about them as well. The reason they care is that wait times do affect the overall experience. If you are familiar with the peak-end theory, it says that experiences are not remembered in whole but are typically remembered based on what the peak emotional point was and how the experience ended. If the peak emotion is the frustration of waiting for 300 minutes, then the end experience is brought down by that. So how did Disney address that and could the VA take a lesson from it?
Disney took their knowledge of rides and wait times and being the innovative company that they are, addressed them with technology. They created a FastPass kiosk system to allow guests to reserve a place in line while being able to do other things in the park and not spend all their time waiting. Could technology offer a similar solution and net benefit to the VA as well?
There is definitely an opportunity to utilize technology. To give them credit, the VA has started to use online appointment requests and scheduling for patients’ to choose preferred dates etc for appointments. However these appointments still seem to be farther out than needed. Online systems also don’t solve the problems of waiting at the VA for urgent care or prescriptions. It seems that a kiosk based system such as Nexistant could be beneficial in allowing patients to check in, see their place in line, and even have the system send them a text when their place in line was coming up within the next half hour, allowing them to do other things while waiting.
For patients needing follow up visits or for those who need periodic check-ups for chronic care conditions, telemedicine systems could be key in giving veterans access to nurses or physician’s assistants who may are well versed in this type of care and qualified to provide continued care instructions as well as determine whether a physician needs to be engaged ASAP via the video call to better assess new developments or an unexpected, prolonged recovery.
Both of these ideas, if implemented on a wide scale could take the unnecessary insult out of the wait times, and provide a type of FastPass for care and information that not only increases efficiency and reduces costs for the VA, but also decreases wait times while increasing quality of care for our veterans who have sacrificed so much already.
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About Jeff Miller
Jeff has been working in the professional AV integration industry for over twenty years. During that time he has served as Designer, Project Manager and/or Account Executive for hundreds of projects. As an Account Executive at Avidex, he specializes in Medical, Education, and Control Rooms. He can be reached at email@example.com