5 Ways to Reduce Patient Wait TimesStarr Campbell
The waiting room of any healthcare practice should be peaceful, with a revolving door of incoming patients going to their appointments and satisfied patients coming out. Once your front desk has been overwhelmed with check-ins, the rest of your schedule goes into disarray. Every organization wants to provide excellent care without inconveniencing or overlooking the people who need help - but how? There’s no way to avoid appointments running ten minutes over or anticipate a member of your staff calling out sick.
The best way to keep the front of your clinic or practice organized is by using technology to manage internal operations. You may need a scheduling tool, an enterprise solution, or a combination of both. Today, we’ll look at why reducing patient wait times is so important and what you can do to improve patient satisfaction right now.
Why are there long wait times in healthcare?
Despite best efforts, the healthcare industry is always battling the dilemma of long waiting times for patients. This can be attributed to several factors, but there are common mistakes that most healthcare organizations make that cost patients' time:
- Disorganized front desk
- Inadequate scheduling tool
- Short staffed
- Faulty equipment/slow technology
These issues plague healthcare practices that aren’t using the best solutions for their needs or are having other internal issues. In order to reduce patient wait times and increase satisfaction, you first have to make sure your practice isn’t suffering from any of these problems.
Try these five ways to reduce patient wait times – and see how your organization can become more efficient and effective in providing care.
Collect patient information accurately
When your patient reaches the front desk, their interaction with your receptionist should be friendly and quick. There shouldn’t be a need for patients to complete paperwork or a long process to check them in. When patients schedule an appointment, make sure they complete required forms and intake documents. If you need them to forward prior medical history or insurance cards, let patients know on your booking form and set up automated emails for reminders.
Not having the right patient information in your system can drastically affect the flow of your waiting room. Once your front office gets behind, the rest of your team will soon follow. There are different ways to communicate with patients and gather documents before an appointment, depending on your organization’s technology. You can create custom booking forms, require documents before booking an appointment, or direct customers to create a patient portal by booking on your site.
Schedule appointments with buffers
A booming business is a good thing but can overwhelm your waiting room if you aren’t strategic. A full calendar doesn’t leave much room for error - like a doctor taking an extra ten minutes with a patient or an emergency that leaves your team short staffed. Implementing a grace period between appointments will give your organization the breathing room it needs to stay moving.
Your scheduling tool should come equipped with settings that easily allow you to add a buffer time for services and appointments. This way, your clients will automatically be presented with booking times that are available with your buffers in place.
Streamline client notes
The front office isn’t the only place you can improve patient waiting time. During appointments, healthcare providers should have immediate access to patient notes on past visits, important medical history, and concerns detailed by the patient during booking. With everything they need at their fingertips, providers won’t have to wait for faxes or emails from other clinics. Plus, patients won’t have to be subject to redundant questioning or at risk of having their primary reason for booking overlooked.
The technology you choose to house your patient information should be HIPAA compliant and easy for your internal team to use. There are many factors to consider when deciding on the right software for your organization, but secure solutions with extensive features tend to be the best fit for healthcare practices.
In the past it may have been easy to dismiss telemedicine as a trend. Today we know how useful it is for everyone, especially patients who have accessibility issues or lead a busy life. Most organizations are under the impression they must ‘transform’ their business in order to offer telehealth services. In reality, adopting powerful a secure video platform and a robust appointment scheduling solution are the main steps to getting started.
There are a number ofgood video software for telemedicine. Yet, many of them don’t offer an appointment scheduling solution, or the solution is not feature rich enough to meet the needs for medical appointment scheduling. TimeTap offers a powerful appointment scheduling solution that automates a number of scheduling tasks and is HIPAA compliant. Our solution can cover in-take forms, appointment messaging, scheduling and an API to communicate with third party software. This is why our software is trusted by a number of medical providers.
Adding telehealth to your services can save some of your patients an in-person trip. Allowing patients to choose their preferred means of care puts them at ease, helping them get ready for an awesome experience with your team. It also provides additional services that help grow your business while providing convenience to patients.
With TimeTap, you can offer multiple locations so you provide convenient options for in-office and telehealth care.You can place links to video software in our tool and automate scheduling tasks. Additionally, we offer a 10% discount to subscribers using Doxy.me, a telehealth video software.
Create a policy (and stick to it)
Setting rules for cancelling appointments, showing up late, and not showing up at all helps everyone in the long run. Patients have an incentive to be on time while healthcare providers can have an efficient system to deal with repeat interruptions in their schedule. Your policy should be clear, concise, and visible for all incoming patients. Writing a cancellation policy is simple when you keep best practices in mind.
Be sure to have patients acknowledge that they have read and agree to the policy. If your policy states that appointments must be rescheduled if patients are over fifteen minutes late, remain gentle but firm when you have a late arrival. Remember to include instructions about rescheduling and how to cancel an appointment ahead of time if patients know they can’t make it.
Giving patients the courtesy of a speedy check-in process and thorough appointment reassures you’re the right provider for them. Adding these practices to your daily workflow will help your patients receive the quality of care they deserve, while freeing your staff from the stress of a packed waiting room.
Looking for a robust scheduling solution to streamline appointment booking and patient communication? Consider TimeTap.