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How to keep your patients happy: 6 steps to reduce long wait times and improve patient satisfaction


Long wait times can negatively impact the patient experience and be highly detrimental to your practice’s financial stability. Here’s how to minimize them.

Amanda Hansen: ©AdvancedMD

Amanda Hansen: ©AdvancedMD

One of the leading measures of patient satisfaction is the amount of time a patient must wait to schedule an appointment at your practice or the length of time they spend in your waiting room. Unfortunately, long wait times are not only rampant, they can have a severely detrimental impact on the patient experience and healthcare outcomes, as well as the financial stability of your practice.

Studies show that patients wait, on average, nearly a month (26 days) to schedule a visit with a healthcare provider. A report from Duke Health found that every ten-minute increase in time a patient spent waiting to see a doctor was associated with a 3% decrease in patient satisfaction scores. It is a domino effect: a long wait time leads to low patient satisfaction scores which negatively impact financial outcomes—quickly turning your private practice into a declining business.

When you consider the mounting list of challenges facing private practices today—burnout, labor shortages, reimbursement denials and more—improving patient wait times is one area where practice owners can easily make a change for the better. Here are six immediate steps you can take to reduce wait times and drastically improve patient satisfaction.

6 Steps to Reduce Patient Wait Times and Improve Patient Satisfaction

Step #1: Employ strategic waitlists to optimize your practice’s daily schedule and minimize the impact of no-shows

When used correctly, patient waitlists can vastly improve daily operations and lessen the impact of no-shows and canceled appointments. The key is maintaining an updated waitlist that can be easily accessed and utilized by your admin team via effective patient engagement and practice management solutions that automate the process. It’s also crucial to implement double- and triple-booking strategies for appointments with high no-show rates—a tactic that can help your practice eliminate unnecessary downtime and keep it operating at full capacity.

When leveraging wait lists, be sure not to overbook appointments—a misstep that could result in even longer wait times.

Step #2: Leverage digital intake forms that give patients the option to complete paperwork online before their scheduled appointment

By transitioning your practice from paper-based forms to digital intake forms that can be completed online, you can significantly reduce the time patients spend filling out paperwork in your waiting room. This not only ensures a smooth patient experience, it can significantly accelerate internal workflow processes. Online intake forms minimize the amount of time your admin team spends inputting patient data while simultaneously reducing errors and streamlining data collection workflows—a win-win for your practice and patients.

A few details to consider when implementing online forms: Make sure they can be easily read and completed on both desktop and mobile devices (smartphones and tablets). Also, include links to the forms on your website so that patients can easily find whatever forms they need to submit. Include links to these forms in your automated texts and emails notifying patients about their upcoming appointments.

Step #3: Implement an all-in-one EHR, practice management, and patient engagement solution that can help accelerate your practice’s daily workflows

One of the most effective ways to reduce patient waiting times is building efficient workflow processes that keep daily operations running smoothly. In today’s digital-first world, efficient workflow processes are only capable when you have a comprehensive EHR, practice management, and patient engagement platform that seamlessly integrates within your healthcare technology stack. Such solutions minimize the amount of time spent on administrative tasks, freeing up resources to focus on patients—and the amount of time they spend waiting to see their healthcare provider.

Specifically, effective all-in-one EHR, practice management, and patient engagement solutions include a variety of resources that help reduce wait times, including: internal wait-list management capabilities for admin teams, rooming features to move patients through the office without hiccups, automated reminder features to notify patients about upcoming appointment times, and intake form templates that can be customized according to your practice’s needs.

Step #4: Keep your admin and clinical staff trained on workflow best practices and up-to-date on the technology solutions that help run your business

Developing onboarding programs for new staff and ongoing employee training initiatives is key to keeping your employees happy. It also results in improved workflow processes, turning your practice into a well-oiled machine that keeps moving forward. Admin and clinical staff that understand and are committed to efficient workflows know how to minimize potential bottlenecks that can happen during day-to-day operations, ensuring smooth patient transitions throughout the office.

Oftentimes, such training is overlooked because so much of how work gets completed is considered basic procedure, but it’s critical that your staff understands what may be the cause of a long wait time, and more importantly, how to resolve the issue.

Step #5: Put self-service tools to work for your business, enabling patients to self-schedule their visits

By leveraging self-service tools that enable patients to schedule appointments online, you provide elevated levels of convenience and flexibility for patients while also drastically reducing administrative workloads. Minimized workloads translate to smoother processes that streamline the entire patient experience, leading to shorter wait times to get an appointment and less time spent in the waiting room.

For practices with multiple medical offices, it is best to use an online scheduling platform that lets patients filter by insurance, location, and provider. It is also crucial that the tool allows your practice to send automatic confirmations once a visit is scheduled and reminder notices leading up to the appointment.

Step #6: Optimize billing processes by offering multiple payment options and no-card-present capabilities

By optimizing your billing processes — via online co-pay collections, digital wallet payment options and no-card-payment capabilities — you can quickly advance operational efficiencies that vastly improve the patient experience. Expanded payment options also directly impact patient wait times: The less time it takes to collect payments from your patients, the sooner you can get your next patient into an exam room.

An optimized billing process has the added benefit of creating a stronger financial foundation for your practice. The easier you make it for patients to pay their bills, the less time your admin team will spend on collection processes.

Waiting is often the most frustrating part of the patient experience, but, fortunately, it’s one aspect of healthcare that providers can control. By putting these steps into action, your practice can eliminate much of the frustration patients feel when trying to schedule an appointment or see your clinical staff. In the end, reduced wait times have a positive impact all around, creating much happier patients and much improved financial outcomes.

Amanda Hansen is the President of AdvancedMD. After joining the company more than 15 years ago as an intern, her ardent work ethic and commitment to employee well-being earned her multiple leadership roles. As President, she launched the Make Me Feel Important (MMFI) initiative to instill a supportive and caring work culture that has positively impacted employee NPS scores, satisfaction and retention. Amanda’s deep industry knowledge, compassion for her employees, and commitment to client-partner success has enabled AdvancedMD to reach all new heights, securing its place as a leader in the EHR, practice management, and patient engagement space.

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