The Value of Time – Minimize Waiting in Your Healthcare Practice

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In this week’s issue of Thinking Thursdays TIPs we will take a look how we value our time.  According to Forrester Trends consumer research, 73% of us say that valuing our time is THE most important thing to us.
So, whether we’re waiting in line at the grocery store, or waiting for a call back from our physician’s nurse, or waiting in to see our healthcare provider — we absolutely place a high value on our time.  If you’re like me, you get more than just a little irritated when someone else wastes your time. 
That being said, let’s take a look at some ways you can see how your practice measures-up, and explore a few time-saving TIPs that your patients will absolutely appreciate as it relates to: 
  1. Waiting in the Office: It Doesn’t Have to be Called the “Waiting Room”
  2. Waiting for Test Results: Setting Expectations Makes the Difference 
  3. Waiting for Call-backs:  Acknowledge the Patient’s Inquiry

Waiting in the Office: It Doesn’t Have to be Called the “Waiting Room”

First of all, if your practice still refers to the Reception Area as the Waiting Room, a good way to start the transition to a more patient-centered culture is to refer to the area where patients check-in and are received into the practice as something other than the Waiting Room.  We would recommend calling it the Reception Area.   Whatever name your practice selects, choose a name that your team can support, and most of all, select a name that has a positive connotation, and say goodbye to the Waiting Room. 
As reviewed in a New York Times article, “Why Waiting Is Torture”, which included research by Dr. Richard Larson of M.I.T., widely considered to be the world’s foremost expert on waiting, we offer the following:
“Often the psychology of queuing is more important than the statistics of the wait itself.”

“That’s why Occupied Time (a long walk to an airport’s baggage claim area, for example) feels far shorter than Unoccupied Time (just standing there waiting at the carousel).”

“Research on queuing has shown that, on average, people overestimate how long they’ve been waiting by about 36 percent.”

What does that mean for your practice?  Create ways to occupy the patient’s time while they are waiting in the Reception Area (f.k.a.Waiting Room).  Time passes “faster” when our time is occupied. Some common time-passing techniques might include:
  • Patient Rounding within the Reception Area (click here to learn more)
  • Provide Free WiFi
  • Post televisions containing patient education and/or a review of provider BIOs
  • Provide reading materials
  • Provide bottled water and perhaps other refreshments such as a high-quality cup of coffee
  • Ensure the Reception Area is neat and clean and encourages the patient to relax
  • Encourage support staff to engage patients in meaningful conversation
Follow the steps below to see how your practice measures-up when it comes to the patient’s perception of Office Wait Time.
  1. Login to M3-Patient Experience
  2. Click “Reporting”
  3. Click “Benchmark Comparisons”
  4. Select a Provider, the desired Date Range, and the Provider’s Specialty
  5. Scroll down to the bar chart titled, “Office Wait Time”
As depicted in the example bar chart below, the percentage of patients that selected the Top Box answer on the Office Wait Time question will display.  Your selected provider in green, your practice’s aggregated percentage in yellow, your organization’s aggregated average in blue and the MedicalGPS national Top Box average percentage in purple.

Waiting for Test Results: Setting Expectations Makes the Difference

Go ahead and Google “Snail’s Pace” and here’s what you’ll get, “an extremely slow speed”.
Moving at a Snail’s Pace is what it feels like when waiting on test results.  To help patients better manage their wait for test results, try some or all of the following.
  • Ask the patient if their healthcare provider explained when they should expect their test results
  • Reiterate what the patient was told by their healthcare provider
  • If the patient was told, “Your test results should be back within two weeks”, have the patient place “Test Results Received?” on their calendar two weeks out from their visit date
  • With compassion and empathy, ask the patient to resist calling the office prior to the date marked on their calendars
  • Assist the patient with accessing their patient portal
The amount of time expended (read, waisted) can reach huge amounts as it relates to anxious patients calling the office prematurely to get test results.  If you’re reading this article, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  The good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way.  With the right amount of compassionate patient education and empathetic support, patient expectations can be set appropriately by a loving/caring healthcare team like your team!  I encourage you to support your team in their efforts to set patient expectations around receiving test results.
Follow the steps below to see how your practice is trending as it relates to the patient’s perception of the timeliness of receiving test results.

1. Login to M3-Patient Experience
2. Click “Reporting”
3. Click “Trending Reports”

The example practice shown below has shown some real improvement since January of this year.  They started out the year at 82% Top Box in January, which was already better than their organization’s average.  As of this writing, 7/11, the July data point is holding steady at 100% Top Box.   A very nice performance indeed!

Note:  M3 charts, including the Trendline graphs, are updated nightly.  The July data point depicted below reflects July MTD as of midnight last night, 7/10.


The importance of handling the patient’s telephone call in a timely manner, and returning the patient’s call on the same day cannot be overstated; the over all impact, both good and bad, can be measured throughout the patient experience continuum.

Waiting for Call-backs: Acknowledge the Patient’s Inquiry

Last week’s Thinking Thursday TIPs included suggestions to help your practice improve Same-Day Call Backs.  If you missed it last week, we thought we’d share the tips again this week for two reasons; 1) Same-Day-Call-Backs are so very important to building strong patient relationships,  AND, 2) using good Same-Day-Call-Back techniques can be a huge time-saver for both patients and support staff.
Above all else, call the patient back on the same day, even if an answer or resolution to the patient’s inquiry has not been realized.  Let the patient know you and your team are working on getting the information the patient needs.  
If you would like to download an excerpt from a recent MedicalGPS webinar titled, “Same Day Call Back: TIPs and Techniques to Improve, please feel free to click here and share with your team.
Below are some of the highlights.
• Collaborate with Providers and Staff to Develop written call-back guidelines and standards
• Set a same-day call-back cut-off time i.e. messages left after 4:00 PM will be returned the next morning by 10:00 AM

• Ensure call-back commitment-window can be consistently achieved by your team

• Advertise the cut-off time as often as possible with every patient  — setting expectations is key
• Assign each message to a staff member for follow-up
• Track & communicate message return compliance

We hope you are finding Thinking Thursdays TIPs useful.  If so, drop me an email and let me know your thoughts.  If you don’t automatically receive Thinking Thursdays TIPs in your inbox, subscribe here.

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Have a great Thinking Thursday! 
Jerry L. Stone
MedicalGPS, LLC

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