Every patient has experienced a long wait time at the doctor. It is something that is so common that many patients have built the unexpected and inconvenient wait time into their schedule when planning their doctor’s appointments. But it shouldn’t have had to come to that. As a doctor, your time is valuable, but your patients’ time is valuable too. If lengthy wait times are decreasing your patient satisfaction ratings, it’s time to do something about it.
The Importance of Patient Satisfaction
Patient satisfaction is a term used to describe the degree of patient’s contentment with their health care experience. It has been shown that patients who are satisfied with how they were treated by healthcare providers typically have higher rates of adherence, improved self-reported health status and lower mortality rates.
The goal for every medical practice should be to provide an excellent level of service in order to create satisfied patients. However, despite this desired outcome, there are many factors that can lead to patient dissatisfaction, such as long wait times and delayed appointments. For these reasons, it is important for practices to take steps towards reducing patient wait times as well as implementing strategies aimed at improving their overall customer service efforts.
Why are Patient Wait Times So Long?
In some cases, patients find themselves waiting in the reception area for extended periods of time before being seen by a doctor. Sometimes this occurs because the appointment scheduling is not done properly. Sometimes it may occur due to the fact that patients arrive late or are unable to provide documentation on time. This can lead to further delays, which can ultimately frustrate patients and cause them to become dissatisfied with their overall experience. This can be a vicious cycle because when patients are dissatisfied, it is likely that they will not return for subsequent visits, which then causes the practice to lose valuable revenue.
Reasons for Long Wait Times
- Poor scheduling or over-scheduling
- Late patient arrival
- Slow check-in processes
- Patients forgetting essential documentation
How to Reduce Patient Wait Times and Keep Appointment Start Times as Scheduled
To improve patient satisfaction, medical practices should always strive to keep appointment start times as scheduled. Although there may be unavoidable circumstances that can cause delays, the majority of these cases are avoidable.
Problem: Poor Scheduling
Solution: Practicing good scheduling requires a practice manager to have an accurate patient database and to make efficient use of office staff time during appointment-scheduling sessions. Additionally, many practices are now using online booking systems, which they can access from anywhere. This allows them to remotely schedule future appointments and keep a digital record of scheduled appointments.
A practice manager should also be aware of physician habits. For example, if a particular physician is well-known for spending extra time with patients, this extra time should be built-in to the schedule to prevent other patients from getting there too soon before the doctor will be finished and having to wait.
Problem: Late Patient Arrival
Solution: In order for an online scheduling system to be effective, it must have the ability to send appointment reminders via email and text message. This may seem like an unnecessary step, but it has been shown that practicing good appointment-reminder etiquette is the single most important factor in reducing no-show appointments as well as decreasing the overall appointment wait time.
Problem: Slow Check-in Processes
Solution: Another reason for patients to become dissatisfied is that they are often required to arrive early for their appointments to leave room for filling out paperwork. In many cases, this can add up to 30 minutes of additional waiting time, which can be very frustrating. This means that medical practices should always encourage patients to arrive only 15 minutes before their scheduled appointment and only if paperwork or other forms must be filled out. Another option is to have the patients submit any necessary paperwork or forms online before their appointment time to reduce patient wait times.
Problem: Patients Forgetting Essential Documentation
Solution: This is another core benefit of an appointment-reminder software. You can program the reminder texts and emails to mention any necessary documentation that the patient must bring with them to their appointment. This may include identification cards, insurance cards, a list of current medications, primary care provider’s phone number, known allergies, etc.
Contact LEVO Health, Healthcare Marketing Experts
If you run a medical practice, you know how important patient satisfaction is. Long wait times are one of the top complaints from patients. What’s worse? These patients are now broadcasting negative reviews about their wait times online! This can result in more lost revenue from missed appointments and unhappy patients who would have otherwise been loyal to your practice. The good news is there are ways to reduce patient wait times, so patients are less likely to be disappointed during their appointment.
LEVO Health is a full-service marketing team that can help get more positive patient reviews posted about your practice. Our consulting services can help find out what’s working and not working in your practice to improve overall patient satisfaction.
Our marketing and patient engagement platform pairs more qualified patients with the right medical care or procedure – strengthening healthcare brands, increasing patient counts and improving business outcomes. Click here to contact us or call (813) 235-0830.