Long Wait Times: What is the Real Cost?

Clearstep Team

All patients will have to wait a certain amount before seeing a professional. How long patients wait depends on several factors, some of which can mean the difference between a good outcome and a bad one.

Long wait times are the inevitable result of a taxed healthcare system. Thanks to nurses becoming burned out and the challenges of the pandemic, more people than ever are waiting too long. Long wait times are more than just a nuisance: they rack up costs and reduce your patients’ quality of care.

How can you improve the efficiency of your hospital, clinic, or urgent care? Lowering patient wait times is a great place to start. Keep reading to learn about this issue ripple effects and how you can improve your business operations.

Consequences of Long Wait Times for Patients

Long wait times may seem like a minor issue compared to patients' health problems, but there are consequences. The longer patients wait, the more disillusioned and worried they become.

According to recent studies, patients leaving without being seen hit an all-time high in the US due to the increased wait times due to the pressures of the pandemic. Long wait times are associated with the following outcomes for patients:

  • More anxious, nervous, and pessimistic patients
  • Reduced revenue for the medical facility
  • Increase in no-show appointments and rescheduled appointments

Related: The Role of APPs in Telemedicine and Digital Health

What is Causing Long Wait Times?

Most Lengthy Waits Are Caused by Delays Relating to Patients

Sometimes patients aren’t able to get to their appointments on time. Life is full of curveballs, meaning patients can throw medical systems for a loop with no warning.

Some of the most common delays relating to patients include:

  • Showing up to an appointment late
  • Schedule conflict
  • Unexpected staffing challenge

Technology Also Causes Delays

Sometimes the patient delay has nothing to do with the patient. Medical technology can glitch or shut down, resulting in complications that can affect the entire facility.

When you continually upgrade to more reliable systems, you’ll reduce the probability of software-related delays.

Timing is everything in the world of healthcare. We established Clearstep to make managing healthcare easier, and to keep patients and care teams on the path towards better health outcomes.

Strategies To Reduce Wait Times

Reducing wait times is more than possible. Once you target the most frequent contributors to long wait times in your business operations, you’ll notice a world of difference.

Give Patients Self-Scheduling Options

Patients know what they need and should be enabled to play an active role in their process of getting optimal care. Empower the people who walk through your clinic’s front door with self-scheduling options and simple reminders.

Scheduling appointments online, getting reminders through email, or sending texts helps reduce no-shows.

Hiring the Right Employees is Crucial

Turnover rates in the healthcare industry are also at an all-time high. Finding the right employees with specialized skills and education is crucial for retention.

Likewise, implementing effective onboarding programs for new employees is in your best interest. A 2022 survey found a solid onboarding program increasing retention for new employees by at least 50%.

The High Cost of Long Wait Times

If your healthcare organization doesn’t reduce patient wait times, you run the risk of losing money, employees, and patients in the long run.

Long wait times have a severe ripple effect that impacts everyone in the business. Patients often become nervous and frustrated the longer they wait for care, regardless if they have a minor or severe health issue. Similarly, long wait times cut into other appointments and leave medical staff frazzled. To put it simply, everyone loses with long patient wait times.

Related: Pushing the Boundaries of Virtual Caresee patients waitingIt’s common to expect a twenty to thirty-minute wait for general care

Why Do Wait Times Matter?

Wait times have a direct impact on the perception of your business. When you attend to your patients swiftly and sincerely, they feel valued and are more likely to return.

To compare and contrast, a reasonable wait time for primary care is ten to fifteen minutes. For general care, it’s common to expect a twenty to thirty-minute wait. Sadly, many medical facilities are seeing patients waiting for more than an hour or two before being seen.

How Do Shorter Wait Times Positively Impact Patients' Satisfaction?

Shorter wait times have a direct correlation between your patients’ satisfaction and the efficiency of your business. Research papers have shown a major link between short wait times and the overall positive experience of a patient.

Patients that are seen in a short amount of time are proven to be:

  • More confident in their provider’s capabilities
  • Less stressed and anxious
  • More likely to return again

Ways to Improve Wait Times in The Emergency Department

Improving your wait times isn’t rocket science. Many medical facilities have similar reasons why they cannot see their patients in a more timely fashion.

Consider the following improvements to your day-to-day operations:

  • Implement more effective communication technology
  • Request patients to fill out surveys explaining their experience
  • Improve your employee onboarding program
  • Adopt AI and machine learning applications that can identify, mitigate and resolve bottlenecks

Related: 3 Ways Patient Care is like Tinder

Time is Money

Long wait times have a serious cost for everyone involved. Patients grow tense and worried the longer they wait, while medical staff often become overwhelmed with the backlog of appointments.

Shortening your wait times will go a long way toward increasing your patients’ confidence in your services. Achieving this is best done by improving your technological resources, choosing suitably skilled employees, and empowering patients with improved communication tools. 

Do you need assistance operating a more efficient medical facility? Contact us today to implement clinically intelligent healthcare chatbots for virtual triage, patient services, and clinical journeys. 

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