Last week, 10 physicians working in the Chicago area became the first to offer a Web-based tool, called MedWaitTime, that allows patients to check whether their doctor is running behind prior to an appointment, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Vishal Mehta -- an orthopedic surgeon and founder of Medical Wait Time, which developed the tool -- said he expects a major physical therapy chain and two hospital systems to begin offering the tool this week.
Patients can access the MedWaitTime website up to two hours before their appointment and can choose to receive text messages alerting them about wait times.
As more health care providers implement the tool, patients will be able to use the service to review wait times for emergency care centers by ZIP Code.
Mehta said his company intends to charge $50 monthly per physician and $300 monthly per hospital department for using the service. The company also intends to develop an iPhone application for the tool, Mehta said.
MedWaitTime is not an automated system, so health care providers and staff must manually update wait-time information. Some observers also have expressed concern that older patients might be unable to use the Internet to access the service.
Andrew Wilper, a physician at the University of Washington School of Medicine, said publicizing wait time data is a "reasonable" idea, but added that the new technology is unlikely to address the issues that have contributed to long wait times, such as an increase in patient load and decline in medical staff resources (Wang, Wall Street Journal, 5/25).