How to Reduce Patient Wait Time for Appointments
Trying to reduce patient wait time is a main component of improving patient access and addressing the rise of patient consumerism. Lengthy patient wait times turn untreated medical conditions into hospital stays, cause undue stress for your patients and could result in a patient finding earlier care elsewhere. By reducing patient wait time (sometimes referred to as appointment lead time), medical schedulers can reduce patient no-shows, patient cancellations, and increase patient satisfaction.
Three Ways to Reduce Patient Wait Time
Knowledge is Power
In The Definitive Guide to Patient Access we created a new way of analyzing the impact of poor patient access, called The Patient Access Score. Here is the calculation.
100*(1 – Total percentage appointments that are no-showed aka your no-show rate)/(1 – Percentage of no-shows for appointments booked same day that the appointment happens)
Another way of measuring patient wait time is third next available appointment statistic. However, with a high volume of patient no-shows and patient cancellations, third next available doesn’t accurately reflect openings in real-time. A great rule of thumb comes from the Chicago Tribune and NCBH President Linda Rosenberg
“For every one day of wait timeyou lose 1 percent of the patients — so if you have a 21-day wait, 21 percent of the patients seeking care just will give up and not show up.”
If you’re average patient wait time is 24 days for a new patient appointment, there is a 24% chance that patient will no-show. If you reduce the patient wait time by 14 days, you’ve dropped the probability of no-showing by 58%!
Streamline Medical Scheduling
Patients should complete as much of the pre-registration as possible prior to arriving for the patient appointment. This will help ensure in-office wait times are reduced and providers are not left waiting on patients. Mail paperwork prior to the visit, or for a faster greener approach there are a lot of technology solutions out there that can assist in capturing this information.
Schedule Balancing and Optimization
Arguably the most important of the three. Providers have an allotted amount of time available to see patients. To reduce patient wait time you need to manage open slots in your schedule.
Set The Right Appointment Types
Medical scheduling best practices dictate that appointment types available in appointment templates match patient demand and revenue optimization. If patient demand is highest for new patient appointments, then template out more open slots for scheduling new patient appointments.
Automated Patient Access
The best practice to increase physician schedule density is to automate patient access. A major part of patient access is waitlist management (or waitlist-less management as we playfully describe QueueDr). Best in breed waitlist management get patients earlier appointments without disrupting staff workflow.
If you have perfectly set your appointment types and adopted automated patient access, what’s next? Schedule balancing which is utilizing lower utilized physicians to take the burden off busier physicians. You can read more about schedule balancing here.
Reducing patient wait time is a big win – for your patients, providers and your bottom line. These are three ways to reduce patient wait time for appointments and increase revenue and physician utilization.