Patient Access: Just How Long Is 48 Hours?

What do you know about the number 48?  It is the smallest number with 10 divisors, and the product of all of those ten divisors equals 484. It is also the smallest even number that can be expressed as the sum of two prime numbers in five different ways. It is a Harshad number; that means it can be divided evenly by the sum of its digits.

With 48 matchsticks you can make a triangle in 48 different ways.

In 48 hours an ant could walk a little more than eight miles.  The Apollo rocket could travel two-thirds of the way to the moon in 48 hours.

So, just how long is forty-eight hours, and why is that important?

During lunch today a visited various health system websites.  In no time at all, a period of time less than 48 hours, I found that in the Contact Us section of three health system websites the viewer could submit a question to the health system.  And those three health systems pledged to respond to the viewers’ requests within…say it with me…48 hours.

And I would be two-thirds of the way to the moon by the time I would receive my reply.

Forty-eight hours apparently doesn’t mean much to a health system, but it means a lot to those waiting on the health system. Waiting seems to be a common theme; waiting rooms, waiting on the phone, and now for those with more of a high-tech bent, you can even wait online.

Healthcare embraces the internet!

Maybe the term embrace is a little too strong.  A 48 hour wait time sure seems to undermine the purpose of having broadband.

If these health systems offered a chat function on their website the wait wouldn’t even be 48 seconds.  And why not offer that.  It sounds silly, but it takes the exact same amount of time to answer the question asked by the viewer, whether you do in online, or whether you wait two days to answer it.  No value is added to the answer by taking longer to provide it.

Some healthcare executives are probably thinking, “Well, it can’t be that important because very few people even use that service to contact us.”  Perhaps they do not use it because they have better things to do than wait 48 hours.  The rule of thumb for how long it should take to provide answers online is that they should be provided right away—right away is also less than 48 hours.

A side note: each of these three websites provided a link for people to schedule appointments online. I tried those three links, and guess what? Each link took me to a page that provided a phone number and the hours during which I could call to schedule an appointment.