The Healthmonix Advisor

Wait Time: The Secret Saboteur of Patient Satisfaction

Posted by Christina Zink on July 12, 2018
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In today’s quality-focused healthcare environment, patient satisfaction is commonly used as a metric for success—which means that it can affect your bottom line. But what if a patient becomes dissatisfied before the appointment even begins? Unfortunately, this happens daily in practices across the nation, as patients grow frustrated from long and unpredictable wait times.

A recent study found that around two-thirds of physicians believe wait times have no impact or only minimal impact on their ability to retain patients, indicating that this misconception is scarily common. The reality, as the same study found, is that wait times really do make a difference. Patients commonly respond to long wait times by leaving without seeing a doctor; changing doctors entirely; rating the doctor poorly in surveys; leaving critical online reviews of the practice; and advising friends and family against using that practice. What’s more, another study found that most Americans do not receive as much preventive healthcare as they should, and that one reason for this is problems with healthcare delivery including wait times.

Of course, even when the problem is clear, it’s not always easy to address. One common cause of increased wait times is patients themselves: late arrivals, last-minute cancellations, and no-shows can all throw off the schedule, and while overbooking can seem like a solution, this may actually cause more missed appointments as a result of even longer waits.

So what easy steps can you take to address this problem?

 

Communicate with your patients.

As it turns out, you might not even need to reduce wait times in order to increase patient satisfaction! A whopping 88% of patients say that simply being told in advance what their wait time will be would lessen their frustration. When patients check in, let them know their position in the queue. And if delays crop up which will increase their wait time, be transparent! Consider devoting a screen in your waiting room to displaying wait times and delay information, so that patients can be updated while they wait.

Communication doesn’t have to end with the visit, either. To get an idea of how you’re doing, reach out to patients via a post-discharge Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey. This is a one-question survey which can give you important insight into your patients’ satisfaction, and where you might need to improve.

 

Give your patients options.

When asked if they would be open to seeing another doctor in the practice if it meant a shorter wait, 67% of patients said “yes.” If wait times are a significant problem for your practice, you may consider offering this option to patients when your schedule allows.

Also, consider giving patients the option to wait somewhere other than in your waiting room. Perhaps they’d rather sit at a nearby cafe, or outside on a beautiful day. You can enable this by setting up a system to alert patients via text when their turn is coming up.

 

Automate as much as possible.

Your money matters, which means your time matters. Minimize the time employees must take to implement these solutions by automating them. Texts to remind patients of their appointment times and call them back to the waiting room for their turn can be sent automatically, and so can NPS surveys.

If you’re worried about the consequences of long wait times, the right solution may be as unique as your practice—but these simple, easy-to-implement suggestions are a good place to start. In the meantime, subscribe to the Healthmonix Advisor for the latest tips and tricks in the world of value based care.

 

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