Wait times have long been a common concern for patients at office-based medical appointments. When telehealth skyrocketed in popularity last year, it became clear that wait times are even more of a frustration for patients during virtual visits.
The numbers show wait times are the biggest pain point for patients who use telehealth. While the national composite mean for wait times during in-person visits in 2020 was 4.79, it was only 4.51 for virtual visits. Although virtual visits offer convenience and can be done from the comfort of the patient’s own home, wait times cannot be ignored.
The American Medical Association says health professionals are seeing 50-175 times the number of patients through telehealth
as they did prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because this growth was sudden and unexpected, healthcare providers and organizations are having to learn and adjust processes as they go. Delays are inevitable, but for the patient, this can be exceptionally stressful; after all, during a virtual visit there is no one nearby who can keep them informed of their wait.
In this case, communicating with your patients up front and providing clear instructions for virtual visits is the best possible way to ease wait time frustrations. Since many patients are new to telehealth, sending an email with detailed instructions or providing a link to the information on your website prior to the scheduled visit is ideal.
Inform the patient of the equipment or devices (including system requirements) that can be used for their visit.
An analysis of patient comments on our Telehealth Patient Satisfaction Questionnaire showed nearly 27% of patients had trouble logging in or connecting to their telehealth visit.
Provide instructions on where and how the patient will log into their visit. If a username and password are required, ensure the patient understands how to set up an account if they don’t already have one. Encourage your patients to log on for their visit 10-15 minutes early in the event they have connectivity issues.
If your practice emails a link to the patient to join the visit, tell the patient how long prior to their appointment time they can expect to receive the link. When sending links, always double-check the patient’s email address at the time of scheduling.
Direct Phone Calls
If the provider will call the patient directly, double-check the patient’s phone number at the time of scheduling. As with email, notify the patient of the approximate time their provider will be calling. When possible, let the patient know what number the provider will be calling from.
Provide the patient with troubleshooting FAQs for common connection issues.
While it may not be feasible to provide updates to the patient during their wait, it’s a good idea to set an expectation for the amount of time the patient may have to wait after their appointment start time. Provide information on who they should contact in the event their wait lasts longer than a specified amount of time, such as 15 minutes.
By proactively communicating to all patients about common setbacks and causes for delays, the efficiency of your virtual visits may increase and positively impact wait times.
SurveyVitals offers a Telehealth Patient Satisfaction Questionnaire to gather feedback from your patients on their virtual visit experiences with your practice. Learn more here
or sign up for a demo
Hope McCain February 17th, 2021 Categories: Best Practices, COVID-19, featured, Outpatient Practice, Patient Experience, Telehealth
Tags: best practices
, patient comments
, patient experience
, Patient feedback
, Patient Satisfaction
, virtual care
, virtual visits
, wait times
When measuring the patient experience, it’s important not only to examine the doctor-patient relationship and interactions with clinical staff, but also where it all begins: at reception.
Although front desk staff aren’t treating patients, their role in the patient experience is critical. It’s so important, in fact, that a patient may switch doctors simply because of a negative interaction during check-in. Concerns with reception may also lead to negative online reviews and may even increase the risk of malpractice suits
Reception and the patient experience
There are four ways in which reception at your practice has a significant impact on the patient experience.
Reception is the patient’s first impression of your practice
Check-in sets the tone for the patient’s entire visit. The prompt greeting and nonverbal communication of the front desk staff are vital to conveying value to the patient. This is the first opportunity to make the patient feel like their needs come first.
During check-in, the patient may also form opinions about the efficiency and professionalism of your practice. This first impression is difficult to negate, even if the patient is extremely satisfied with their provider.
Reception is a hotspot for privacy concerns
Discussing patient information too loudly or in too public of an area may cause privacy concerns. If a patient feels like their privacy is violated during check-in, they may continue to worry about privacy throughout their visit and during their time with the provider. Respecting privacy at the front desk demonstrates the level of commitment your practice as a whole has toward privacy and security.
Reception impacts patient perceptions of wait times
Though a long wait time may not be the fault of the front desk staff, patients often perceive excessive wait times to be related to reception. Front desk staff can help to ease wait time frustrations by greeting patients promptly at check-in and providing regular updates when wait times are high.
Reception affects perceived access to care
When a patient can’t reach someone by phone to schedule an appointment or is given incorrect information about an appointment, they consider these concerns when rating their overall experience. If another practice is more accessible, they may choose to leave.
What can you do?
These five simple best practices can go a long way in improving the patient’s experience during check-in.
- Greet the patient promptly with a smile when they approach the check-in area; if all staff are with other patients, acknowledge each patient who enters and explain they will be helped as soon as possible
- Speak softly when discussing the patient’s personal information
- Use warm nonverbal communication: smile, maintain eye contact, and speak with a gentle tone of voice
- Display empathy toward the patient; remember they are in a vulnerable position
- Check in with the patient and provide updates when wait times are longer than expected
The Reception question group on the Standard Patient Satisfaction Questionnaire (SPSQ) gives you insights into your patients’ attitudes toward your front desk staff. Dive even deeper with comment sentiment analysis to learn about specific pain points for your patients.
The Improvement Center also contains a variety of resources targeted toward Reception best practices.
Hope McCain February 12th, 2021 Categories: Best Practices, Outpatient Practice, Patient Experience
Tags: best practices
, patient experience
, quality improvement
, wait times