HealthWare Systems Blog

Patient Satisfaction Rule #1: Don’t Keep Patients Waiting

Posted on Wed, Sep 14, 2016

According to a study featured in The American Journal of Managed Carepatient wait times have a significant influence on overall patient satisfaction and even on patients’ perception of the quality of care received. Unfortunately, a 2013 survey by Software Advice found that 97% of patients are frustrated with wait times. Of those surveyed, 22% even said they’d pay extra money to avoid wait times altogether.

It’s often the little things that make a big difference when you’re tending sick or injured patients and their loved ones. And the waiting room happens to be an integral part of the “little things” in any hospital experience.

While your goal may not be to eliminate patient wait times completely, you can make the patient waiting experience much easier, and shorter, with these steps:

•Do What You Can Before Patient Arrival

Ensuring all registration paperwork and other patient records are up-to-date and ready to go before the patient arrives is essential for a smooth patient check-in and transition to treatment. All pre-arrival documentation needs to be reviewed and on file prior to the patient’s date of service.  Is there a physician order in-house and is it complete?  Is insurance verification finished, pre-authorization on file, and medical necessity accounted for?

For scheduled visits, every little step you can do beforehand should be done so that your patients aren’t delayed by incomplete paperwork or insurance verification hiccups when they arrive.

Don’t Overschedule

Another key component of reducing wait times is effective scheduling management.  For scheduled appointments, a strictly enforced scheduling, tardiness, and no-show policy can prevent wasted blocks of time. Scheduling staff should also leave a bit of space open to make room for the unexpected or unpredictable. Most importantly, don’t double book or overschedule if your goal is to increase patient satisfaction and improve wait times.

Be Honest and Realistic with Waiting Patients

Effective communication is essential for waiting patients. Software Advice reported that 80% of patients would feel less frustrated if they knew how long they’d be waiting.

If there’s a problem, make it known and provide alternatives. For example, the same survey conducted by Software Advice revealed that 41% of patients would be willing to see another doctor at the facility if doing so would shorten their wait.  Communication and flexibility can make a huge difference in patients’ opinions of your hospital —because it shows you care about their time. Patients appreciate a hospital that appreciates them.

One way to communicate with your waiting patients is through the use of an internal patient tracking system.  Healthware Systems’ ActiveTRACK, for instance, pairs a patient tracking system with a display screen mounted in the waiting room or lobby area. Each patient is assigned a number for protection of privacy, but every number’s status is visible for all to see on the screen, allowing patients and family members to better gauge the remaining wait time when they see where they stand in comparison to the other patients’ numbers. In addition, ActiveTRACK can provide family members with real-time updates on the progress of their loved one’s visit, which are sent directly to their mobile phones even when they are outside the facility.

Such tools can also be powerful allies for hospital staff; they increase efficiency and save staff time by providing visibility and open communication for all departments, which eliminates the need for internal emails and phone calls concerning patient status.

Make Use of Technology

Today, there are IT healthcare solutions for nearly every issue.  Have you considered using technology, like that described above, to reduce your patient wait times?

According to a 2015 Vitals report, depending on your state, average patient wait times vary from 15 minutes to over 23 minutes (and may be higher when broken down by city or specialty).  Imagine if your patients waited an average of only 3 minutes. Sounds unrealistic?  One Illinois hospital reached this benchmark and cut patient wait times by 50%—a staggering reduction gained from the integration of an effective patient tracking system.

The very beginning of a patient’s experience sets the stage for his/her perception of the entire encounter.  Make sure each patient’s visit gets off to a good start by keeping patient wait times as short as possible, and you will see an improvement in patient satisfaction, and with it, a greater patient retention rate.


By Ashley Choate Professional Healthcare Blog Writer