The Business Case for Reducing Patient Wait Times

Long Wait Times Reduce Exam Room Utilization (Read More)

In some outpatient clinics, exam rooms are used less than half of the time the clinic is open, while at the same time, the average wait time in the waiting area is high (1) (2) (3).

Effective room sharing policies increase can achieve a 10-20% increase in patient volume, reduce patient wait times, and improve Exam Room utilization by improving physicians’ access to rooms, reducing idle time, and improving clinical performance by reducing clinic closing time.

Long Wait Times Reduce Patient Satisfaction and Retention

As we’ve mentioned in our earlier blog post, long wait times erode patient satisfaction. As depicted by the table below, patient dissatisfaction negatively influences the likelihood of repeat visits.

The Effect of Wait Time on Patients’ Attitudes

Jeanne Hill, C & Joonas, Kishwar. (2005). The Impact of Unacceptable Wait Time on Health Care Patients’ Attitudes and Actions. Health marketing quarterly. 23. 69-87. 10.1300/J026v23n02_05.

High-performing teams don’t take patient churn as a given, they see it as an opportunity.

Long Wait Times Increase Cancellations 

Long patient wait times negatively impact patients, providers, and practices. Athenahealth looked at 4.2 million patient appointments across 13,000 provider brackets and found that patient cancellation rates increased as the wait time increased. 

Long Wait Times Reduce Referrals

Increased wait times negatively influences the likelihood of recommending the doctor to others.

Long Wait Times Reduce Rankings

According to the 9th Annual Vitals Index, 84 percent of people believe wait time is either “somewhat important” or “very important” to the overall experience at a doctor’s office. In fact, 30 percent of people reported they’ve walked out of an appointment due to long waits. What’s more, 1 in 5 report they’ve changed doctors because of long wait times (4).

Shown below are the results from the 9th Annual Vitals Index showing a strong correlation between individual physician rankings (1-5 Stars) and the amount of time a patient waits (minutes).

Correlation Between Patient Wait Time and Doctor’s Average Rating

As we have mentioned in our previous blog, wait times are inversely related to patients’ perceptions of care provided. If patients are dissatisfied with long wait times, then the doctor’s individual rating will reflect it.

Long Wait Times Reduce Value Based Payments

Hospital, inpatient, and outpatient settings are increasingly subject to Value-Based Payments (VBP) and other Pay-for-Performance (P4P) contracts that are tied to assessments of quality such as patients’ perceptions of the care provided.

High-performance teams looking to increase reimbursement tied to VBP contracts should optimize their performance on measures related to patient experience, patient wait times being one such example (5).

Additionally, VBPs reward providers who promote care delivery in the most efficient settings. Key to value based care is more treatment in ambulatory settings. Reducing wait times can increase outpatient access by 10-20% (link to room room-sharing blog post), bolstering the shift to value-based care.

Long Wait Times Can Danger Multiple Revenue Sources

Physician referrals are crucial for health system profitability. Ensuring that individual physician practices have a good experience, trust in those physicians, we think will help health systems ensure high quality across their network and maintain or grow their downstream physician revenue streams.

Maintaining this quality or perceived quality, is vital, as each physician generate $2,378,727 in average annual net revenue (6).

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