Addressing Patient Wait-Time Woes

February 13, 2014
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addressing wait time HISIt’s no secret that some patients get upset at long wait times in healthcare offices, but a recent survey from Software Advice put numbe

addressing wait time HISIt’s no secret that some patients get upset at long wait times in healthcare offices, but a recent survey from Software Advice put numbers to the patient experience problem. According to the survey, 97 percent of patients report being frustrated with wait times, even though 45 percent of respondents said they waited less than fifteen minutes to see a doctor.

This research from Software Advice indicates patients are increasingly relying on online reviews for information about things such as wait times before they make appointments.  Though physicians can’t guarantee short wait times for every appointment in medical offices, emergencies and critical situations are bound to throw things off. Occasionally, there are some things offices can do to reduce wait times or create a positive patient experience when excessive wait times occur.

Tips for Reducing Frustration with Wait Time

Waits will happen, and medical offices can take action to positively impact patient experience throughout the process.  According to the Software Advice survey, 80 percent of respondents stated information about the wait would reduce frustration.  When patients check in, let them know how long the average wait is and keep those in the waiting room informed of delays.

Other ways to reduce frustration with waiting include:

  • Apologizing for delays.  The survey indicated that apologies from the physician were especially powerful in creating better patient experiences.
  • Offer free Wi-Fi in the waiting room.  Busy professionals will appreciate the ability to keep up with work, parents can entertain kids, and all patients can use the time to access email, books, or news.
  • Provide televisions in the waiting room.
  • Provide complimentary food and beverages, such as coffee, fruit, water, juice, and other small snacks when appropriate.
  • When possible, offer the chance to see a different physician within the practice to reduce wait times.
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Tips for Reducing Patient Wait Times

Reducing wait times is one way to increase patient satisfaction, and office efficiency is the best way to do so.  Develop procedures for handling as much administrative work as possible before the patient arrives.  When patients make appointments online or via the phone, prompt them for necessary information such as address, phone, symptoms, and insurance.  For specialists in areas like orthopaedic or radiology offices, ensure referral records arrive before the patient.

Don’t overbook appointments.  Use exam rooms to keep patients rotating from the waiting room.  Even if patients are waiting a few minutes, the fact that other people are moving reduces the feeling that the office is backlogged and the appointment is taking forever.

Remove unnecessary tasks from physicians to speed up the process.  Physicians and clinical staff should spend as much time on patient treatment as possible.  Use software and services to make claims processing and medical records management more efficient.  When possible, use nurses for high volume functions such as injections or routine clinical questions.  Concentrate on efficiency to provide a patient experience that is quick and thorough, but never rushed.

(Image courtesy of: Ambro/ Freedigitalphotos.net)