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14 good ways to cut your appointment wait times

Long patient wait times cause frustration for patients, stress for reception desk staff, loss of confidence in the practice—and, ultimately, loss of revenue.

Here are 14 things you can do to reduce patient wait times, courtesy of Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer of Healthcare Success, a team of specialists who partner with healthcare clients to profitably deliver results through data-driven marketing.

1. Offer digital check-in services that allow patients to submit medical forms before their appointment.

2. Offer hassle-free online appointment scheduling and rescheduling.

3. Integrate virtual care services like telehealth/telemedicine.

4. Stay on schedule by leveraging physician assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) for routine or non-urgent visits.

5. Develop better new patient lead workflows to improve efficiencies and productivity.

6. Conduct patient surveys.

7. Send patient appointment reminders to lower your risk of no-shows (which can keep everyone waiting unnecessarily).

8. Develop and publish a policy for cancellations, no-shows, and late arrivals. For example, this policy may outline fees for same-day appointment cancellations,  no-shows, late arrivals, and late-notice rescheduling.

9. Optimize access management practices to automate appointment re-filling. For example, if you have a cancellation or reschedule, call patients scheduled for a later date and offer them an earlier appointment. This keeps your queue filled, reduces revenue loss, and provides earlier appointments for other patients.

10. Identify and resolve bottlenecks quickly.

11. Streamline internal processes and communications.

12. Use a mobile or virtual queue to keep patients out of the reception area.

13. Provide a warm, welcoming space for waiting. While you can’t eliminate patient wait times completely, you can make the experience as comfortable as possible. Consider offering complimentary and secure wi-fi services, educational materials (either printed or onscreen), and plenty of comfortable seating. You may also consider moving patients from the reception area into available exam rooms as soon as they become available to indicate forward momentum.

14. And most importantly, listen to your patients and their needs. Even if you fall behind in your schedule, your patients will appreciate transparency and your willingness to fix the issues over time. And if you really want to hold your organization accountable for delays, offer patients a gift card to nearby coffee or pastry shops as a way of saying thanks for their patience.










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