Do you know patients’ top complaint about medical visits? It has nothing to do with the clinical aspect and everything to do with how patients rate their experience. It’s waiting which, in many practices, is excessive. It takes two forms: waiting to be seen and overall time to complete the appointment.
Solving this takes commitment. It begins with recognizing that a patient’s time is just as valuable as the doctor’s time. That can be tough to recognize if the practice still calls that first area a patient enters their “waiting room.”
Waiting by itself is a waste, both of time and opportunity to bring some form of value to the visit. Ideally, patients arrive, are greeted and then taken back so the appointment can begin. No delay. Paperwork, insurance verification and payments are all handled “offline.” But that’s not always the case. Patients can arrive late, doctors have to deal with a complex issue, a testing device stops working.
Stuff happens. When it does, you should be ready for how to handle it. The rule of thumb should be this equation: waiting + activity = activity. If you can mix something in during that wait time, people will remember the activity more than the waiting. While this addresses the symptom and not the problem, it’s still better than having people get upset because they were made to wait.
A good example of this is Delta Airlines care carts, which they began rolling out for passengers at the gate when their flight gets delayed. “It’s amazing how much happier people are when you start handing out snacks,” noted the article’s author, who wrote after experiencing this with his family during a flight delay.
Another example is Wifi for patients and their caregivers. This one is so obvious that I am awestruck at the number of medical practices that don’t make it readily available. Setting up a little free library is another way you can make reading an activity for those who are made to wait.
I challenge you to do better in this area, especially if you are still showing cable news programs or have outdated magazines cluttering your space. If you are serious about attacking the root cause of waiting, check out a module that several of us put together called eliminate wait. Whatever you do, just recognize that time is valuable, whether it’s that of the doctor, the patient or the staff member. Anything you do to offset the wait will be appreciated by your patients. And, of course, don’t forget the snacks!