Admit it: Improving patient satisfaction is hard. So many variables go into a patient experience that it’s often difficult to know which changes in your practice are likely to have the most dramatic impact.
Customers love MedStatix scores but it’s not uncommon to wonder where to focus your attention when it comes to practice improvement. Fortunately, our platform enables you to see what factors drive your patients’ ratings, and it turns out that one specific facet of the patient experience sets the tone for everything that follows. Our research pulled from more than 125,000 surveys from patients seeing more than a thousand providers from June of 2014 to June of 2015 confirms it: If you can improve your patient wait times, your satisfaction score is certain to rise.
While this information isn’t likely to be seen as shocking, the consistency with which the correlation exists requires this key component of the patient visit to get your full attention.
How long is too long?
The average wait time to see a physician today is twelve minutes, so certainly that’s a reasonable flag to plant in the ground.
On the government mandated CAHPS survey in 2014, patients were asked if they were seen in 15 minutes or less and 82% said they were “always” or “usually”.
But what if they weren’t?
According to the MedStatix data, the shorter the wait, the higher the satisfaction score and the improvements don’t stop at twelve minutes. In fact, those who wait less than five minutes report higher satisfaction scores than those who wait less than ten, and so on and so forth. The shorter the wait, the higher your practice will be rated. And if wait times extend to more than 45 minutes, the “office atmosphere” scores are alarmingly low.
Comments from patients further confirm this fact. The MedStatix platform categorizes certain patients unlikely to recommend your practice as “detractors,” and comments from these customers show a common theme:
“Wait time was unacceptable at WELL over an hour.”
“Wait time was ridiculously long.”
“Being 35 minutes past my scheduled appointment time, I felt he like he rushed through visit to try to make up for being behind schedule.”
“I waited 1 1/2 hours for a simple appointment. That was just to be taken in exam room, then another 45 min to wait for the Doctor. Unacceptable.”
What to do about it:
The data on this issue is crystal clear: if you can reduce patient wait time, your patients will report higher scores. But knowing is just half the battle. What are some of the tools and techniques to drive wait times lower to meet and exceed patient expectations?
Many new technology solutions, deployed appropriately, have the ability to hasten wait times. Check-in kiosks, secure messaging and patient apps all have the potential to speed up wait time and should be explored.
Meanwhile, tele-health solutions can also be useful. After all, if a patient is waiting from the comfort of their home, they’re not as captive as someone in your office and are free to go about their day waiting for the doctor to sign on. Several studies on “waiting” have proven that it’s the lack of stimulation that causes one’s patience to be tested. Whether in their homes or in your waiting room, providing education, entertainment or stimulation are all key to making the wait more tolerable.
Keep in mind, however, that for any technology to work, you’ll need to understand where your bottlenecks are now. Technology won’t eliminate glaring errors in policies and procedures that fly in the face of common sense or customer service.
Big data has a way of making us think things are more complicated than they need to be and it’s easy to walk into a staff meeting with ten or twelve ways to improve patient satisfaction. Next time around, have your team focus on wait times and nothing else. The data is clear: moving the wait time needle in the proper direction has a cascading affect for everything that happens afterward.