If your patients were asked how they feel about having to wait for their healthcare provider, what would they say? Whether in person during appointments or on the phone, do they feel like they spend a lot of time waiting? An Intrado survey of 1,036 adults and 317 healthcare providers in the U.S. revealed that 83 percent of patients believe healthcare organizations are more likely than other companies to run late or to keep them waiting.
Here are some points to consider about patient wait times:
- Many patients feel like healthcare waits are excessive, but providers may not see it. According to West’s survey, only around four in ten healthcare providers (42%) say that healthcare professionals run late more frequently than service providers in other industries—a far cry from the more than eight in ten patients who feel this way.
- There is a connection between patient satisfaction and wait times. Eighty-four percent of patients feel wait times negatively impact the overall patient experience.
- Patients won’t stand for excessive waiting. Nearly one in three patients have left a doctor’s office because of a long wait.
- When patients get tired of waiting, they may switch healthcare providers. One in five patients has switched doctors because they felt wait times were too long.
- For patients, calling a healthcare provider often results in waiting. Intrado’s study found that more than half (53%) of patients say they have been put on hold either for a long time or without a callback option.
A Washington Post article about the psychology of waiting proposes that “how people feel when they wait in line often matters a lot more than the duration of the wait.” When you consider that a lot of people waiting for healthcare providers are sick, in pain or just generally not feeling very well, it is easy to see why a wait time that doctors see as acceptable may feel overwhelming to patients.
Healthcare providers who want to minimize waiting and improve patients’ experiences can focus on reducing the number of times patients spend waiting during the appointments, as well as the number of times patients have to wait on hold when they call their provider. Here are two tips that can help providers keep waits to a minimum:
Patients want to be notified when there are delays that will impact their appointments. When providers are running behind schedule, teams can use their patient engagement technology to send automated messages to alert patients of delays so they can adjust their arrival time and avoid long waits.
Instead of asking patients to sit on hold, healthcare providers can offer callers the option to receive a callback so they don’t have to wait on the phone. This shows patients that their provider values their time and is similar to how other service industries handle long call wait times.
To learn more about how healthcare providers and organizations can reduce wait times, or at least minimize frustration over wait times, download When Patients Are Waiting, Communication Is Key.