Lengthy appointment wait times are nothing to brag about

You spend years studying your craft, paying your dues, working up the ranks, even starting your own practice, and then one day you learn that not only do people want to see you as a physician, they have to wait in line to do it.

But lengthy appointment wait times, though a seemingly nice “problem” to have and definitely a boost to your ego can sabotage your practice’s efficiency, damage your reputation and leave your patients frustrated and flocking to other providers.

Lengthy appointment wait times increase patient forgetfulness

The more time that elapses between setting and attending an appointment, the greater the likelihood that the busyness and chaos of life can happen. People forget reminder cards, miss appointments on their calendars or let yesterday’s problems overflow into today’s schedule.

In her study, “Why People Don’t Come: Patient Perceptions on No-Shows,” Dr. Naomi L. Lacy observes, “No-show rates increase with increasing time between scheduling and the actual appointment. Longer waiting times have been shown to be related to lower satisfaction, which, in turn, leads to less reliable appointment keeping.”

Lengthy appointment wait times increase patient rationalization and self healing

The longer a patient has to wait, the more he can rationalize reasons not to keep his appointment.  Let’s face it: a doctor’s visit isn’t typically someone’s favorite activity – and we’re all good at finding ways to avert the necessary for the immediate, easy and painless. “I don’t feel that bad.” “My tooth isn’t that sore.” “I can live with the stomach pain.”

Dave A. Chokshi, professor at NYU Langone Medical Center, states in his July 15, 2014, New York Times article, “The Health Care Waiting Game,” that “waiting for medical care can be either harmful or beneficial, depending on the circumstances.” He continues, “But patience can pay off for many other conditions, like joint pain and viral infections, where – given a little time – the body often heals on its own.”

Lengthy appointment wait times increase alternative solutions

In an age of instant everything and unlimited options, finding quality, available and alternative healthcare is a viable option. If someone can’t see Doctor Best, he’ll go down the road and see Doctor Just-As-Good. People are used to shopping around and getting what they want when they want it. They’ll do the same for their healthcare.

In their book, “Marketing Your Clinical Practice: Ethically, Effectively, and Economically,” Neil Baum and Gretchen Henkel explain their findings on why patients missed appointments: “One of the most common reasons, we found, was that new patients who had been given appointments weeks or months prior to their no-show visit had often found another physician who could see them sooner.”

If you’re working at the job you love, providing quality care to patients and running an effective practice, you’ve got plenty of things to be proud of. Lengthy appointment wait times shouldn’t be one of them. In fact, if patients have to wait too long to see you, they may well forget, forego or even fly off to another physician.

Sources:

Why People Don’t Come: Patient Perceptions on No-Shows
The Health Care Waiting Game
Marketing Your Clinical Practice: Ethically, Effectively, and Economically

 

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