Physicians must innovate to meet the needs of patients

I can’t stop thinking about a drive-thru. Not the one for burgers and shakes but the one for ear checks, sports forms, quick med refill visits or a lingering rash. For those things you just want to know fast or need done now, but don’t want to spend 2 hours resolving. For those things that really make you worry as a parent. Instead of the millisecond-mall-type clinic, we all want our doctors, our clinics, and our child’s team to provide health care. In my opinion, parents and pediatricians both believe in the medical home.

McClinic?

Imagine if you knew your doctor did the drive-thru on Tuesday afternoons. Would you swing by to ask about that rash you’re worried about or to check in on your child’s ears? Follow up on a new seizure medication? What if it didn’t even require a call ahead of time? What if tight time restraints were agreed upon (say 7 minute visits or so) in advance so the patient/physician agenda was aligned? Swing by on your way to daycare?

We want quality, trust, and mobility when it comes to health care. We want easy access, too. Of course we must fight for improved electronic visits and online advice. We want comprehensive, compassionate preventative care. We will need in-office visits, yes. And sometimes we need hands-on more urgent care, too. Now the “kwik-clinic” idea isn’t new, I know. Even hospitals are opening urgent-care clinics throughout the country. But your pediatrician often isn’t involved.  So what about that drive-thru:

This all started for me when a pediatrician friend spilled her dream list for a new pediatric clinic. In it she mentioned the “ear-check drive thru.” She said, “Sometimes parents just want to know if they can let their child cry at night–or if it’s an ear [infection] keeping them up.” The drive-thru concept became a reality when her clinic  recently had to evacuate for a mechanical issue in the building. They cancelled all the afternoon visits but she was on-call and spent the afternoon seeing patients out of a station wagon. She said it was phenomenal. It was efficient, centered around the patient, and more directed than usual. Less waiting, less exposure to illness for children in the waiting room, and easy for parents. Imagine being able to pull up in line, chat with the doctor and have an evaluation without unbuckling the car seat.

Would adolescents feel more comfortable asking questions from their car? Would they swing through for a medication check or to chat about a new embarrassing problem? Does the environment of the car improve the ease for asking questions for some?

Mobile health in an entirely different way.

I recognize the complexities, limitations, and difficulties with providing medical care in a parking lot of course. Some patients would need to be triaged inside to the clinic. But I also sense great opportunity for service and patient-centeredness, cost reduction and partnership.

I’ll write next about the other kind of mobile health and exciting new data that compels us not only to build the drive-thru, but also to use mobile apps to promote patient’s health (there’s already an app for ear checks). We live in a time where no longer is it the patient’s responsibility to conform to the system; I believe we live in the time where physicians must innovate to meet the needs of patients.

Wendy Sue Swanson is a pediatrician who blogs at Seattle Mama Doc.

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