5 Ways to Improve Patient Wait Times
According to a recent report published by Software Advice, patients are increasingly using online reviews to acquire information about wait times before scheduling an appointment.
Software Advice surveyed more than 5,000 U.S. patients to determine how wait times affect a patient’s view of a particular practice. Throughout the survey, it became evident that decreasing a patient’s wait time is essential; with more than 40 percent of those surveyed stating they would be willing to see a different physician (in the same practice) to reduce their wait time.
Other key findings include that 80 percent of those surveyed said that knowing their wait time reduced their frustration level; furthermore, 70 percent stated that a personal apology from their physician would also reduce their level of frustration.
Unfortunately, there are times when leaving a patient waiting is unavoidable. For this reason, creating an inviting, entertaining, and interesting waiting area is essential in helping retain your patients.
1. A Watched Clock Never Ticks – Offer Entertainment
When patients have nothing else to do, they watch the clock. David Maister’s paper titled, “The Psychology of Waiting Lines” offers insight into how patients feel as they wait in a typical, uneventful waiting area. When we are doing nothing, time seems to move slower than it does when we are busy. William James is a noted psychiatrist and philosopher who states “boredom results from being attentive to the passage of time itself.”
- Free Wi-Fi
The majority of waiting rooms are full of current newspapers, magazines and other materials to read; however, consider offering a complimentary Wi-Fi service as well. This allows them to use their electronic devices while they wait. Software Advice’s report indicates that 60 percent of those surveyed felt that having access to such a service would minimize their frustration in the waiting room.
- Small Tables
Consider placing a couple small tables in the waiting area. This gives patients a place to fill out paperwork or use their laptops. This also gives children the ability to do their homework while they wait.
- Tablets for Patients to Use
Purchase a few inexpensive tablets for patients to use as they wait. Tether these tablets to the furniture or allow patients check them out and then return them when your staff calls the patient back.
Mount a television in the waiting area and turn on a family friendly channel. Today, many of the programs that target tweens and teens are designed to appeal to adults as well. Because the volume will be relatively low, remember to turn the closed captioning on.
2. An Unfair Wait Time Seems Longer Than an Equitable Wait
If a patient sitting in the waiting room notices that another individual who arrived later gets called back, chances are he or she will want to know why this occurred. For this reason, staff members need to be very clear when explaining why some patients wait longer than others do. If there are several practitioners in one practice, patients need to be aware that because there are patients in the waiting room for various practitioners, wait times will vary.
3. Keep Patients Informed About Wait Times
Patients are less anxious when they know how long of a wait they can expect. To diminish anxiety, patients need specific information about wait times. Eliminating the anxiety allows patients to control what they do with the time they have in the waiting room. They may decide to perform maintenance tasks like cleaning up their email accounts, delete unwanted pictures on their phones and uninstall useless apps.
If Necessary, Pick Up the Phone
If the day starts and appointments immediately begin to fall behind, some practices contact their patients to inform them of the delay. This lets the patient know that his or her appointment time needs to be moved up or rescheduled because your office is running behind. Although patients will be less than thrilled if they need to reschedule, they will most likely appreciate the option. This does require flexibility on the part of the staff because they will also be staying later. However, following this protocol lets patients know that you realize their time is just as valuable to them as yours is to you.
4. Have an Assistant Start Appointments at Their Scheduled Times
Patients are anxious to get started and want to feel as if they are moving forward, getting closer to seeing their practitioner. Having an assistant begin patient appointments at their scheduled time (or as close as possible) helps put patients at ease. The assistant can update the patient’s information in the computer and make note of any symptoms a patient is experiencing.
5. Patient Feedback is a Valuable Resource
Asking patients to offer feedback following their appointments helps minimize dissatisfaction. Administer a brief survey to gather insight into how the patients’ feel about their wait time. Patients appreciate the chance to voice their opinions and address frustrations. These kinds of surveys let patients know that you care about the time they wait to see you and are always looking for ways to make their visit better.
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