Wait Times...Why They Matter and How to Ease the Pain of a Long Wait

Posted on Mar 20, 2018 by Lori Boyer

Long wait times are the biggest irritation for patientsWait times…study after study has found that waiting is the biggest irritation for patients. And yet, practices often ignore the issue. Sixty three percent of physicians believe that wait times have “no impact” on their ability to retain patients. But think about it. No one like to show up on time for some event, party, or meeting only to find that you've gotta wait around for someone else. And yet, patients commonly find themselves waiting at their healthcare practice. Patients have to wait to get on the schedule. They have to wait when they arrive at the office. They even wait to get results. And they don’t like it.

Where patients may have once been willing to suffer through a long wait in silence, today’s modern patients are no longer as easy going as they once were.

 The results of waiting in the office?

  • 23% will get up and leave without seeing the physician
  • 22% will tell friends and family to not visit that practice
  • 7-9% will leave a negative review about the practice
  • And nearly 20% will switch to a new doctor

Patients are also not fond of long waits to get on the schedule in the first place. More and more, patients are waiting a long time before they can get in for a visit. One study recently found that patient wait an average of 29 days nationally to see a dermatologist, 66 days to have a physical in Boston, and 32 days before seeing a cardiologist in Washington. All of this waiting takes a toll. Studies show that the longer a patient waits to be seen, the lower the likelihood that they will even show up at all. Patients who have to wait longer than two weeks are 60% more likely to no-shows to their appointments.

4 Reasons Practices Run Behind Schedule

There are a few basic causes behind most practice wait times. Fortunately, there are also some ways to alleviate these issues. 

1. Patients arriving late. We all know it's true. Patients themselves are often the cause of a practice runningPatients can make the whole day run behind behind. Even if it was a late patient early in the day pushing your whole schedule behind, current patients really don't care. The best way to avoid late arrivals is through timely reminders in the way patients prefer. For patients who chronically run late, you can even send out an extra reminder the day of an appointment. Another idea for helping patients show up on time is through incentives. You can offer a daily or weekly drawing for each patient that shows up on time for their visit. The small amount you would invest on a $25 gift card or some other reward is tiny compared to the amount of money you could save. 

2. Scheduling challenges. Sometimes the fault lies with the way your schedule was set up. Are you building in time for late patients in the morning and after lunch? Are you effectively prioritizing appointment by type? Have you found ways to fill last minute cancellations on the schedule without pushing waiting times out? Check out this blog post for tricks to scheduling your practice effectively and efficiently. 

3. Too many patients. There may be times when you have simply accepted too many patients. Did you know that there is an ideal size for every practice and going beyond that number actually results in lower revenue? This blog post will walk you through how many patients you need to run your office efficiently while getting the best ROI. 

4. Poor communication. Many times, simply letting patients know what is going on can reduce a huge amount of the frustration. According to research:

  • 80% of patients would be less frustrated if they knew how long the wait would be.
  • A personal apology from the doctor would minimize frustration for 70 percent of patients
  • 41 percent of patients would be willing to see a different doctor in the practice in order to reduce their wait times.

These types of communication can take place both before a patient shows up and in the office. Shoot off a Reducing wait times makes patients happyquick text message if you're running behind letting a patient know.  You may be surprised at how much of a difference it could make.

Last week, my daughter became terribly sick. We rushed her to the emergency room. She was eventually admitted to the ICU where she spent several days recovering. When asked about her experience, the first thing she said was, “They were great. They saw me really fast and started caring for me immediately.”

What did she care about? How fast she was seen! It really does matter. 

For more ways to make patients happy in your practice, check out this free download.

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Lori Boyer

Lori Boyer

Lori Boyer has spent over a decade developing content and customer strategy for a wide variety of companies. She especially loves "walking a mile" in the shoes of her target audience. At Solutionreach we focus on relationships - building and maintaining them. She does the same. Lori Boyer is a lover of crisp fall mornings, a good book, and just about anything Beauty and the Beast related.

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