Sometimes, the best ideas are the simplest

Previous columns have been less than flattering to Twitter, since I still have doubts as to whether it's more than a passing fancy and, in many cases, a colossal waste of time. I'm slowly starting to come around.

Something that really got me thinking was a tweet last week by Will Weider, the CIO of Ministry Health Care and Affinity Health System in Wisconsin: "What if doctor offices tweeted cancellations so others can fill the opening?"

Weider, who blogs as the Candid CIO, had had plenty of good ideas before, but this has to rank among the best. Plus, it's simple to implement.

Physician offices, particularly those in primary care, need to see as many patients as reasonably possible to compensate for rising costs and shrinking reimbursements in today's badly misaligned healthcare financing system. Patients, of course, hate to wait for doctor's appointments, particularly if they're sick. I know I've been told many times to call back in a couple of days to check on cancellations rather than wait weeks for a coveted appointment. I can't remember the last time actually did call back.

The old way is passive. The doctor's office doesn't do anything to fill last-minute openings other than wait for the phone to ring. Patients, unless they're truly sick, aren't likely to make the effort to check on cancellations. While I don't know if I'd "follow" my doctor on Twitter (assuming, of course, that I ever actually sign up for Twitter), I'm sure others would.

Here's another idea along the same lines: Why can't a practice take down the cell phone numbers of people waiting for appointments and send out a blast text message when something opens up? That's mobile healthcare at its simplest, and it makes sense for everyone involved, no? - Neil