Waiting is another word for lost time — and it’s always stressful and annoying. But waiting — and waiting — in a doctor’s office is not only stressful and potentially a health risk, it can also negatively impact the patient’s perception of the visit and treatment.
Bottom line: turning the waiting room into a positive experience can benefit both the patient and the staff. According to the CDC, the average American pays a visit to a physician’s office two to three times per year and has an average wait time of over 18 minutes per visit. That’s a lot of waiting in a room full of sick, anxious people.
Another survey found that 85 percent of patients surveyed said they waited between 10 and 30 minutes past their scheduled appointment time. Notably, in that same survey, 63 percent viewed waiting as the most stressful part of the visit. In other words, they dreaded the time spent waiting more than going to the examination room and getting a shot. Wow!
Fortunately, there are waiting room solutions that can have as great an impact on the patient experience as the medical service itself. Waiting room solutions are a vital part of the overall patient journey and should solve the issues of overcrowding and both actual and perceived wait times.
Waiting Room Solution 1: Appointments
The very first key to minimizing the dreaded wait time is better managing patient flow with appointment scheduling.
It gives patients the ability to schedule their own appointments. No more playing ping-pong trying to coordinate schedules. But the benefits of appointment scheduling extend far beyond this — all of which leads to a real reduction in actual wait times.
Appointment scheduling lets a customer book, reschedule, or cancel appointments as well as request a service or a preferred staff member. Patients tend to pay more attention to the process when they play an active role in it. Additionally, since they’re more invested in the appointment, they arrive on time and are less likely to miss or cancel their appointments.
Scheduled appointments also monitor and help decrease walk-in volume. Because of this the office is in a place to better react and adjust to the changes in patient flow. This waiting room solution starts any visit off more smoothly because not only the patient, but the medical practice itself, can instantly realize the benefits of greater efficiency.
Waiting Room Solution 2: Mobile Ticketing
Mobile ticketing is a waiting room solution that actually keeps patients out of the waiting room. Patients can check in for their appointment and wait offsite until it is their turn. Their appointment or place in line is held virtually, so they can sit outside, in their car, or even at a nearby location. They control how they spend their time waiting.
Surveys of primary care offices show that satisfaction of their experience is directly related to how they view their wait time. The longer the wait, the lower the patient’s satisfaction. In fact, in the survey referenced above, 61 percent said they would appreciate a text alerting them to a change in wait time, even if they were already on their way.
This is exactly what mobile ticketing allows for. Patients can receive a text about any changes in their wait times as well as notifications when it is their turn.
An added benefit is that the patient’s health is less at risk because they’re not in the waiting room with other sick people and unable to properly socially distance. With a quicker, safer, and easier check-in, patients are less stressed, setting the stage for a more productive visit.
Waiting Room Solution 3: Digital Signage
There are two ways to enhance the patient’s journey when it comes to wait time. One is to actually reduce the wait time. The second is to limit the perceived wait time, which can be just as important. A Cornell University study showed that perceived wait time affects patient satisfaction more than the actual wait time.
So, how does a doctor’s office battle perception? One important part is communication – keeping the patient informed and in a sense of control – which can be done in the waiting room using digital signage.
After a patient complains about a 10-minute wait, correcting them that it’s only been five minutes won’t help. Instead, keep them informed in real time. Communicate clearly and visibly with integrated media, graphics, and queue information. If there is a patient emergency and the wait will be longer, a posted update goes a long way in patient understanding and acceptance.
Some of these same monitors can also be used for playing more entertaining offerings such as videos or even live TV. Entertaining (or distracting) the patient can play just as big a role in reducing perceived wait times. For those waiting on site, digital signage can let them see their wait in real time and not just in their mind’s times.
Enhancing the Visit
The patient’s journey is not just about the actual examination. Every step from pre-arrival to post-visit plays a role in patient satisfaction.
Starting off the visit demonstrating an efficient and safe medical practice sets the tone for the entire visit. By placing a focus on waiting room solutions, offices are able to create a more satisfying and productive experience for everyone involved.