Improving Patient Wait Times

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patient wait timesPatient satisfaction is important to any practice, and often that satisfaction begins with a clock that starts ticking the moment they walk in the door. Just as your time is important to you, your patients’ time is important to them, and you want to do everything in your power to make them feel as if that time is respected by your practice.

One of the biggest complaints that most of the general public has when visiting any physician is the time spent waiting for their appointment. While there are always emergencies and issues that arise, with some best practices in place, you can reduce wait times and leave the majority of your patients feeling more satisfied with their appointment.

Never start the day behind schedule.

Make sure that your staff is coming into the office early enough to prep for your first patients of the day and that you leave a window for yourself to get settled before the first patient’s appointment time. Once you fall behind, it’s nearly impossible to catch up and you’ve got an entire day of frustrated patients on your hands.

Give patients an avenue to prepare intake paperwork prior to their appointment.

When new patients are entering the practice or if you require an updated insurance form or other paperwork, give patients the option to fill out online or print out the forms and bring along. Let them know that if they’d prefer to fill out forms in-office, they should arrive earlier than their appointment time to help you facilitate them being seen in a timely manner.

Take care not to overschedule.

It can be tempting to add just a few extra appointments to the day in the event of no-shows, but this can create a serious backlog if everyone shows up on time for their scheduled appointment. Instead, use the time allotted for any no-show appointments to catch up on case notes while waiting for the next patient.

Train your staff to analyze the needs of an appointment when scheduling.

If a patient requires intake testing or evaluation prior to being seen by the physician, be sure that the staff understands how that factors into their appointment time versus the time they will be seen by their attending doctor and schedule accordingly to prevent backups.

Communicate delays at check-in.

On those days that the inevitable happens and you do run behind schedule, be sure that the front desk staff is being clear with patients about the wait time and is working to make them comfortable during the delay. Most patients will be understanding if they are made aware that an emergency arose and you are running a bit behind. The frustration comes when they do not understand why they are being made to wait to be seen.

When you do fall behind, be sure to acknowledge and apologize.

Be sure to show your patients some appreciation for their patience. It’s easier for people to forgive when they are asked, but when they have sacrificed some of their day and it isn’t acknowledged, they become even more frustrated.

What are some of the tactics that you have used to reduce patient wait times and improve overall satisfaction with care?

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