Geisinger CEO Dr. David Feinberg: 'I'd like to eliminate the waiting room and everything it represents'

Jaws dropped last November when Danville, Pa.-based Geisinger Health System CEO David Feinberg, MD, announced the organization would begin offering refunds to patients for less than satisfactory experiences. The refund program, called ProvenCare, is clearly favorable among patients, but it's also valuable to the hospital, for it provides clinicians and administrators candid insight into the patient perspective.

The most common complaints Geisinger has heard from patients so far center around poor communication from the care team, environmental complaints and confusing medical bills, Dr. Feinberg wrote in a recent LinkedIn post. But by far, the most pressing complaint among patients is long wait times, especially in the emergency department.

"Personally, I'd like to eliminate the waiting room and everything it represents," Dr. Feinberg wrote. "A waiting room means we're provider-centered — it means the doctor is the most important person and everyone is on their time. We build up inventory for that doctor — that is, the patients sitting in the waiting room."

People who come to the ED are already sick and suffering — forcing them to wait long stretches of time to get care just adds to their suffering, according to Dr. Feinberg. Because of this, "Our ultimate resolution is to reduce the wait time in the emergency rooms at Geisinger facilities to zero minutes and I really think we can accomplish this in two years," he wrote.

Dr. Feinberg outlined what a zero minute wait time in the ED would look like. Treatment would begin as soon as patients enter the ED "because remember, it's an emergency," he wrote. This would probably involve hiring more physicians and introducing online registration. Additionally, ER waiting rooms could be transformed into additional clinical space where physicians could treat patients.

"I think our industry is ripe to be disrupted," Dr. Feinberg concluded. "And it's going to be disrupted because there's so much we do that doesn't add value. Waiting rooms have never cured anybody. They're really not fun when your wife has just suffered a stroke. Treating people like a number is fine at the DMV because you don't have to go there all the time. It's not right in the healthcare system."

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