Being Open Evenings and Weekends Overcomes a Key Barrier to Care

Most adults, regardless of their profession, work during the day. And the majority of doctors’ office hours mirror those of their patients. When compared with competing Western industrialized nations, access to after-hours care — which “refers to care for medical problems arising between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m., and on weekends and holidays, that could be appropriately managed by the patient’s primary care physician/team” — is quite poor in the United States. Most doctors in the U.S. are only available to see and treat patients during average work and school hours. And on top of this, increasing numbers of physicians have begun to cut back on working hours as they close in on retirement or burn out.

For many people and parents, taking time off of work to attend a doctor’s appointment for either themselves or their child can be incredibly difficult. And in some cases, conflicting office hours are used as an excuse to skip doctor’s visits altogether. Patients tend to allow unabating procrastination to take over. However, if doctors were to keep their offices open during evening hours and on the weekends, it would be significantly less stressful for patients to get the emergency, maintenance, and preventive care that they need. Catering to the working family is critical. More convenient office hours would allow patients to visit their physicians outside of demanding work and school schedules.

Results of Inaccessibility to Routine Health Care Services

The outcomes of a lack of access to routine health care services are quite adverse. Nevertheless, inaccessibility to after-hours medical care persists. An examination of the 2010 Health Tracking Household Survey found that one in five individuals experienced difficulty when attempting to reach their clinicians after-hours. And a lack of after-hours medical care often results in more emergency cases and less preventive care for patients. But “those who reported less difficulty contacting a clinician after hours had significantly fewer emergency department visits (30.4 percent compared to 37.7 percent) and lower rates of unmet medical need (6.1 percent compared to 13.7 percent) than people who experienced more difficulty.” Thus, after-hours medical care can eliminate costly, nonurgent emergency room visits and encourage consistent preventive care.

More Emergency Cases

More and more individuals are utilizing emergency rooms for nonurgent, after-hours care. Unfortunately, limited office hours often cause many patients to push their pain thresholds, waiting until they experience unbearable discomfort before seeking medical attention. And as a result of intolerable pain, many people choose to visit urgent care facilities or hospital emergency rooms for medical care. Not only is doing so typically much more costly than a doctor’s office visit, but it also contributes to the inefficient use of emergency medical resources.

Many of the complaints that commonly appear in emergency rooms, such as stomach aches, abdominal pain, headache, fever, and cough, can be easily treated by primary care physicians. But when these health problems arise outside of regular business hours — most typically between the hours of 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. — an emergency room visit is often the only option. Offering after-hours care, including telehealth access and extended office hours, can help eradicate many financially burdensome emergency room trips. Additionally, practices that offer patients extended office hours have a higher likelihood of offering same-day appointments, providing patients with even more improved accessibility, and helping to reduce the number of nonurgent emergency cases. At Avicenna Cardiology, Dr. Beheshtian is committed to serving patients and our offices are open evenings and weekends.

Less Preventive Care

Limited doctor’s office hours make it easier for individuals to choose to forgo routine check-ups and physicals examinations. Rates of preventive care are significantly low nationwide, the most common reason being a lack of time spent on office visits. But consistent primary care, regardless of the hours during which doctor’s office visits occur, often results in improved outcomes for patients. Preventive services can eat up a lot of physician time. With after-hours access, whether by telehealth or in-person appointment, allows for the implementation of greater and more consistent preventive care measures. Moreover, the continuity of extended hours can potentially minimize the fragmentation of care, as well as lower rates of unmet health care needs.

Health Care is a Service Industry

Although doctors are certainly also juggling their professional and personal lives, health care providers must begin to accommodate their patients and their schedules better. Some physicians have already instituted limited hours and days of operation, only making it more difficult for patients to fit doctor’s office visits into their busy lives. In order for health care to become more broadly accessible to individuals, doctors must make themselves more accessible, thus we are open evenings and weekends. Physicians who only make themselves available to patients during regular work hours represent a quite antiquated service model. Maintaining office hours beyond the standard workweek of Monday through Friday will cater to a more substantial majority of individuals. To most effectively and efficiently administer health care, medical professionals must work to treat and assist patients when, where, and how they require it.

Extended Hours with Telehealth

Health IT and connected health can empower healthcare organizations to overcome the barriers of expanding office hours. Telehealth enables patients to seek out medical advice and assistance without requiring them to attend an in-person visit. Thus, telehealth allows individuals to receive medical care outside of the constraints of an office schedule. By manipulating office hours, as well as staggering out appointments, patients can receive health care services when most convenient for them. And healthcare organizations and doctor’s offices that implement telehealth offices and work to accommodate patients’ schedules are likely to experience more patient access.

After-Hours Care at Avicenna Cardiology

With the help of a skilled and experienced medical professional, individuals can receive high-quality preventive care and work to avoid emergency medical events. Dr. Beheshtian is an interventional cardiologist who has treated over 1000 patients in New York and elsewhere. She is extremely knowledgeable about treatment paths for various types of cases, mild or complex. Please feel free to contact Avicenna Cardiology’s office with any questions. Telehealth and in-person appointments can be scheduled either over the phone or on our website! Dr. Beheshtian offers extended office hours, accommodating each patient’s busy schedule, and is is committed to being open evenings and weekends. Avicenna Cardiology is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., as well as Saturday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

About the Author

Azadeh Beheshtian

Azadeh Beheshtian is board certified in cardiovascular disease and internal medicine by the American Board of Internal Medicine. She specializes in interventional cardiology and peripheral artery disease, with a focus on women’s heart health.