Healthcare optimization research seeks to minimize clinic wait ...

When people visit a clinic for a non-urgent medical consultation, they have to wait their turn just like everybody else. Some waiting is inevitable, but prolonged wait times may induce anxiety and irritate people. Long wait times can also be detrimental to patient satisfaction.

Too much time in the reception area may push patients to, for instance, give low satisfaction scores to doctors. Some patients may also leave the appointment or switch to a medical provider if the wait time becomes unacceptable.

Medical providers, therefore, should take steps to manage their physician wait times. After all, the patients are the ones paying to visit a doctor — and health care providers should respect and value the effort these people spent.

Here are some of the strategies you can adopt to minimize wait times in your practice and help improve patient satisfaction:

Obtain Patient Health Information in Advance

At first glance, you may find it convenient to gather patient info at the time of the visit. Collecting patient details on the spot, however, can create bottlenecks and prolongs the waiting time. This is because some individuals are slow in filling out patient forms.

Rather than gather health info on the day of the visit, collect this information in advance. Use a reliable practice management platform that lets you gather the details you need about the patient. With this software, you eliminate the hassle involved in a patient check-in and begin the doctor’s visit on the right foot.

Implement a Policy on Late Arrivals and No-Shows

No-shows and late arrivals from patients go beyond damaging a practice’s finances. They also ruin the clinic’s workflow by making other patients wait longer. If your office currently doesn’t have a definite policy on patients who arrive late or fail to show up on their scheduled appointments, take this time to create rules.

First, establish a time limit for late arrivals. Patients who arrive more than 30 minutes late for their scheduled appointment, for instance, will have to reschedule.

Then, come up with a policy for no-shows. Patients who fail to show up, for example, will need to pay a fee.

Whatever rules you go with, make sure that you communicate them to your patients. Provide advance notice of your policies using various communication methods, such as brochures, emails, and SMS. You’re doing this not just to minimize patient waiting time, but also because you value the time of your patients as much as yours.

Enforce Special Patient Protocols

Come up with special protocols for patients suffering from major illnesses, such as chest pain, head injury, and stomach pain. If you have patients coming into your clinic that fit certain medical descriptions, your practice can have these patients follow a predetermined treatment path. This helps cut down on patient wait times.

Come up with a Patient Survey to Determine Workflow Bottlenecks

If you don’t know what’s throwing off your daily clinic workflow, consider handing out a patient satisfaction survey. This type of survey shows your patients that you listen to their concerns, as well as value their time and feedback.

Add questions that track the timeline of the patient from clinic arrival to exit, such as:

  • How much time did you spend waiting in the reception area?
  • How long was your visit to your doctor?
  • How long did you wait for our medical staff to check your vital signs and address your concerns?

When disseminating the survey, do this during different days of the week. This allows you to obtain an accurate picture of how consistent the problem is in your medical practice.

Start Offering Telemedicine Services

Consider adopting telemedicine (for non-urgent medical consultations) to decrease your practice’s patient visits and wait times. With this type of service, physicians and other medical staff can use virtual platforms to see patients online. This is a huge benefit for patients, as they no longer have to drive to your practice and wait for their turn.

Delegate Patient Documentation to Trained Staff

If you’ve just installed a new, state-of-the-art electronic health records (EHR) system for your medical practice, your team may take some time to get used to the new interface. Since documentation is a time-consuming task, try assigning this work to one of your experienced medical assistants (or someone who has the speed of a professional typist).

Alternatively, you can follow a team-based care model to save time and improve efficiency. This involves a clinical assistant taking on some additional documentation tasks, such as:

  • Taking notes during a physician-patient visit
  • Managing lab test orders and prescriptions
  • Collecting patient medical history

Although this new workflow may require an adjustment period, this model helps prevent your practice from getting bogged down by administrative tasks. It also allows your staff to spend more time delivering top-quality care to your patients.

Eliminating waiting times may be impossible, but you can cut it down by following these strategies. Remember that long wait times don’t just inconvenience patients. It’s a clear sign that you need to make your practice more efficient in managing patients.