Often, dermatology practices (and all other medical practices) can struggle with patient wait times. The average in-office patient wait time is around 20 minutes, and according to a survey completed by Software Advice, 43% of patients become frustrated when their doctor appointment wait time hits or exceeds 20 minutes. That means a large portion of patients isn’t thrilled with waiting that long.
Not only can extended wait times contribute to patient dissatisfaction and lack of retention, but they can also affect your bottom line, both in that they may require you to reschedule patients or work extra hours. Addressing and ideally, eliminating long wait times in your dermatology practice can both improve patient satisfaction and increase your efficiency and profitability. If this has become a problem area for your dermatology practice, this can be a fantastic area to focus on improvements. Here are some ideas to consider.
Identify Issues with a Patient Survey
Not sure if your wait times are too long? Ask your patients as part of a digital satisfaction survey. Once you can collect that data, you can determine if your wait times are a source of dissatisfaction and create an action plan to adjust. Include some additional questions that may give you insights on why longer wait times are happening and what solutions might be possible. You can also invest in tracking technology that specifically records patient scheduling, creates automated times and generates reports.
Use Automated Patient Appointment Reminders
Sending patients reminders of their upcoming patients can help cut down on no-shows; in some clinics, waiting on no-show patients can contribute to delays. It can also help ensure patients show up early for their appointment, meaning they can take care of paperwork and insurance information before their appointment.
Incorporate Online Patient Intake Forms or a Patient Portal
Giving patients access to their intake forms in advance of their appointment can help ensure they don’t need to fill out those forms in the office, thus reducing the chance their appointment starts late. This can be achieved by using a patient portal, where patients can access these digital forms, as well as review educational materials, schedule non-urgent appointments and update their medical history, which can all help save time for your team.
Have Built-in Buffers
Some offices will schedule occasional blank spaces in their daily appointment calendar to allow them to catch up if they fall behind. If the time slot isn’t needed to catch up on patient appointments, they can use the time to catch up on paperwork or work on administrative tasks.
Set a Policy for No-Shows and Stick with It
For patients that don’t show up to their appointments or arrive late, set a policy that requires them to reschedule after not meeting a set arrival time. You can consider late fees too for patients that continually no-show or come late. This type of policy will show patients that you value their time as much as they do.
Communicate with Secure Messaging Rather Than Only Phone Calls
Many EHR systems now have built-in communication features that allow you to send secure messages to patients. Utilizing this along with phone communication can reduce the number of calls your practice receives and help your team respond more quickly to patient inquiries – while freeing up more time for in-office patients.
If decreasing patient wait times and further developing patient satisfaction overall is something you need support with, we’d love to talk. Schedule a consultation with one of our practice management experts today!