A study of more than 200,000 patients from MedStatix surveys suggest that the number of growing wait times is due to the pressure to increase productivity. The research found that those providers who were more productive, their patients waited longer and then when seen, felt rushed through the appointment.
Providers can be more productive without sacrificing the patient satisfaction. The effort put forth by the provider to increase productivity should not be at expense of long wait times. That only hurts the bottom line of your practice and the possibility of losing patients or even gaining new ones.
Since healthcare coverage has been expanded under the Affordable Care Act, another factor that may contribute to growing wait times is a shortage of physicians. Another research suggests patients have a wait threshold of 20 minutes or less to see a provider. After that wait time passes, the satisfaction rates drop drastically, especially if there is not proper communication or mitigating system in place.
Through research, there is enough evidence that the most important factors on loyalty and patient satisfaction is not having long wait times. On the same token, long wait times can be unavoidable. For instance, when a specialty is involved and perhaps that provider is either the only one on duty or an emergency situation came up needing his/her expertise. In those cases, the front staff should be well training in communicating with their patients the situation and in most cases, the patient is understanding and willing to accept the long wait time.
Melanie Micheal, DNP, MS, an assistant professor at the University of South Florida College of Nursing in Tampa, Florida found in her survey that front office workflow and the proper front-desk staff was key in lowering wait times and keeping patients happy. In situations where long wait times are unavoidable, Michael suggests having a system of reassurance. Letting patients know where they stand in the queue or just confirming that the practice knows they are still there makes a world of difference to a patient who has been waiting possibly over an hour or more. They want to be reassured that they are not forgotten and given an option to either re-schedule their appointment or continue to wait. These small fixes are a worthwhile investment in a time where patients take on a more active role in their healthcare.
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