Psychiatrists spent an estimated 1 million hours on the phone getting insurance authorizations to admit people to hospitals – time the lead author of a study on the matter says could be better spent helping patients.
And perhaps time the patients might be suffering needlessly.
Researchers tallied over three months the time it took to get insurance OKs for patients in the emergency department of Cambridge Health Alliance in Massachusetts to see whether that time added to the overall time the patient spent waiting.
They recorded data for 53 people, ages 7 to 68. Most of them were suicidal, the researchers said. They had different insurance coverage, but in all but one case authorization was granted.
The average time to get it was 38 minutes, according to the study published Tuesday in the Annals of Emergency Medicine. For about 10% of patients, authorization took an hour or more, the researchers said.