Canadians are no strangers to waiting for healthcare services. Data from Health Quality Ontario revealed that patients spent an average of 20.7 hours waiting to be admitted to the hospital from the emergency department in July. However, just because Canadians are used to being kept waiting doesn’t mean they’re happy about it. Ensure their experience with your healthcare practice is more enjoyable by reducing wait times as much as possible. Trimming wait times is well worth the effort, because 84% of patients said wait times are either “very important” or “somewhat important” to their overall satisfaction with their office visit. So how can healthcare professionals reduce patient wait times and improve satisfaction? Here are eight tips to help make appointments go faster.
Offer virtual options
Virtual healthcare visits can be a great tool for reducing patient wait times because it leaves in-person appointments open for those who need them most. Expanding your online offerings for routine questions, check-ups or follow-ups makes it easier to get in-person patients out of the waiting room more quickly.
Limit the number of no-shows and same-day cancellations by sending friendly email or text messages to your patients 24 hours in advance. Many systems can automate this service for you, making it easy to incorporate into your practice’s routine.
Incentivize customers to sign up for appointment reminders by sending healthcare giveaways to those who opt in. Patients are sure to appreciate a convenient reminder, plus a handy reusable face mask, shaker bottle set or manicure set imprinted with your logo.
Communicate your policies
While some circumstances can’t be helped, late arrivals and no-shows can disrupt even the most organized practice. Having a policy—and communicating it effectively—can help limit some of the problems. Consider posting your late policy on your website or app, especially if you have a tool that allows patients to schedule their appointments online. Patients will be more likely to arrive on time if they know they might lose their spot in line otherwise.
Use a mobile waiting room
A mobile waiting room is a scheduling innovation that improves the patient’s experience before their appointment has even started. It can:
- Allow patients to check in and “reserve” their spot in the queue without being physically present in your waiting area.
- Provide estimated wait times for patients wanting to book last-minute appointments.
These options are especially helpful for busy patients who are on the go. For example, a patient might choose to check in for their appointment from home. Then they can spend their wait time driving to their provider’s office rather than just sitting in the reception area. Also, if a patient sees that the estimated wait time for an appointment is too long to fit their needs, they can choose to book at a different time instead.
Streamline the check-in process
Another way to speed up a patient’s experience is to streamline the check-in process. Sending the patient’s paperwork in an email or allowing patients to text photos of their insurance card ahead of time can help reduce the need for the patient to sit in your office prior to their appointment.
Encourage patients to participate in the streamlined check-in process by sending them healthcare giveaways along with their paperwork. Customers will love practical gifts, like a pedometer, hand sanitizer or domed stylus keychain.
Conduct an audit of your office’s current communication methods to see where any breakdowns may exist. Designating an official communications hub, whether it be a tech platform like messaging or a physical location like a whiteboard, could be a great first step in organizing your office.
Despite your best efforts, delays are likely to happen from time to time. When a delay causes longer patient wait times, take the time to reflect, diagnose the cause of the problem and brainstorm ways it could be avoided in the future. You may discover a process could be streamlined or a new policy could be implemented to help make your office more efficient in the long run.
Be transparent about delays
If a delay happens, be honest with your patients. Your willingness to discuss the reasons behind a delay could make all the difference. Patients will notice and appreciate that you value honesty, and they may be more likely to stay with you as a result. It may also be helpful to send a follow-up thank-you magnet for an added personal touch.
Reduce patient wait times for a better healthcare experience
Improving patient wait times in healthcare is a tangible way to build stronger relationships with your patients, leading to more positive experiences. By streamlining your practice and making it more efficient, you’ll get patients in and out of their appointments in no time.