One of the biggest culprits of patient frustration can be found in the waiting room of a hospital or private practice. All too often a patient shows up at their scheduled appointment only to wait for extended periods of time, helpless until their name is finally called. The average cost just for time spent in the waiting room while waiting for health services is $43 per patient.
41% of patients would be willing to switch to another doctor in order to reduce their wait time, so this issue clearly affects patients, physicians, and all medical staff. New research has revealed that the average patient will spend 121 minutes every time they seek medical care; of that, only 20 minutes are actually spent with the physician. Some of that time is spent on travel, filling out paperwork, or communicating with other members of the staff, but a lot of the time is spent just waiting, flipping through outdated magazines, playing candy crush, or daydreaming.
Here are five simple ideas to eliminate one of the biggest mutual frustrations in healthcare by emptying your waiting room.
- Create a system for late arrivals and no-shows
Many of the bottlenecks in wait time for patients happen because another patient was late for their appointment or simply failed to show up, which leaves empty spaces that could otherwise be filled with appointments. Develop a procedure to control how often this happens in your private practice or hospital. If a patient is running late, they will have to reschedule; if they miss an appointment they may face a cancellation fee. You can also offer a warning/grace period so as not to scare patients away. When a patient calls to make an appointment, be sure that they are aware of your late/no show policy. In order to hold the patient accountable, make sure to gather payment information when an appointment is scheduled.
- Collect patient information beforehand
Send all needed paperwork to the patient via email, snail mail, or a HIPAA-compliant mobile application so that they can complete it during their own time and send it back before their appointment. Researchers from Johns Hopkins Universityfound that when doctors have access to and are able to review patient information the day before an appointment, wait times are greatly reduced. This practice can streamline many processes involved in patient care by allowing the attending physician to familiarize him or herself with the information and be better prepared for their appointments.
- Explore virtual “telemedicine” options
Telemedicine isn’t an option for certain specialties and in certain states, but using HIPAA-compliant technology (such as eVisit) to see some of your patients virtually can improve patient satisfaction and eliminate wait time. There has been a recent trend of policymakers liberalizing laws at the state level in order to allow telemedicine as an option for healthcare providers and there are a number of services you can use to securely consult with a patient remotely. Video consultations are rising in popularity because they allow patients to receive healthcare from the comfort of their own home, cutting out all time spent traveling to and from appointments or in wait rooms.
- Use a time management app
A mobile app that creates a virtual queue is incredibly useful in reducing patient frustration with wait times. Apps such as QLess add patients to a virtual wait list, where they can check their status and projected wait times. A patient will be notified if your staff is running behind and can adjust their schedule accordingly rather than waste valuable time in a waiting room. Using a mobile queue appis an easy way to keep the lines of communication open with your patients, improving their patient satisfaction and giving you greater control over the flow of your patients.
- Create a patient survey to identify bottlenecks
If it’s impossible to pinpoint when, where, and how patient bottlenecks occur in your hospital or practice, create a simple survey for patients such as the template below. Make sure to use the survey over a number of days and weeks so that you can get the most accurate idea of where the problems are and what is causing them. Many patients will also feel a sense of satisfaction in just knowing that you value their time enough to survey them, which fosters greater patient compliance.