When a patient arrives to see a physician on time for a scheduled appointment, having to wait an extended amount of time can be a very frustrating experience. While they realize that doctors are busy and their time is important, they also feel that their own time is important. Being left to sit in a waiting room well past the time of his or her appointment often leaves the patient feeling disrespected and as if the doctor or practice doesn’t care. It is essential that doctors know how to minimize patient wait time. While waiting is sometimes inevitable, there are ways to reduce patient wait time and make it easier to cope with when it cannot be prevented.
Quite often, poor scheduling is the source of lengthy wait times. One common problem is that many practices schedule the first appointment of the day for the same time the office opens. If both the staff and the first patient of the day arrive at 9:00 each morning, chances are not good that the patient will actually be seen at that time because it takes the staff a little while to prepare for the day. Even if that patient is seen by 9:20, you are still starting off twenty minutes behind schedule every day. Another common issue is double-booking in anticipation that some people will not show up. This is a recipe for disaster that almost always throws a schedule off track.
Ways to Minimize Patient Wait Time
There are several ways to minimize patient wait time. One of the easiest ways to keep things running smoothly is by scheduling patient bookings at short internals. Scheduling one patient every five to ten minutes is usually better than booking two or three every 15 to 20 minutes. In addition, let patients know how much time they have been allotted when they are scheduling, and gently remind them again during their visit. Patients often use up a lot of time simply because they were never told how much time they actually have. Don’t be pushy, but try not to let appointments run over.
Sometimes emergencies do come up, and getting off track is inevitable. Most patients understand this and do not mind waiting from time to time. To make their visit as pleasant as possible, there are several things you can do to make waiting more bearable. Making the waiting room pleasant and providing magazines to read is a good place to start. Today, many practices also offer free WiFi so patients can browse the Web while they wait.
Communication is also essential. It is much easier to wait an extra 15 minutes if someone lets you know that it is going to be 15 minutes as opposed to leaving you to wait indefinitely. When extended patient wait time cannot be avoided, an apology and brief explanation means a lot, especially if it comes directly from the doctor. Taking a few seconds to stop by the waiting room to apologize, explain that there has been an emergency or other delay, state the anticipated wait time and let patients know that they are free to reschedule means a lot and shows that you respect them and their time.