How Digital Tools Help Medical Groups Reduce Patient Wait Times and Increase Operational Efficiencies
The average physician appointment lasts only 18 minutes. That doesn’t mean, though, that patients get in and out of their provider’s office that quickly.
It is not unheard of for patients to wait 30 minutes or more to be seen by their doctor — and that’s after getting an appointment scheduled. Even though 84% of patients agree that a reasonable wait time is a crucial component of a quality patient experience, the average wait time for new-patient, non-emergent appointments across five specialties is 26 days— that’s up 8% from 2017.
Some waits are unavoidable, and a majority of patients understand that. Most, but not all. A poll conducted by MGMA found that long wait times were one of the prominent reasons for the 71% increase in disruptive patients. That’s a little scary for healthcare providers!
The Avoidable Consequences of Lengthy Patient Wait Times
One of the most common consequences of lengthy wait times is patient attrition, which typically leads to lost practice revenue. Nearly two-thirds of physicians believe wait times have “no impact” or “minimal impact” on their ability to retain patients, but research doesn’t match that. Roughly 40% of patients start feeling frustration when wait times exceed 20 minutes, 30% have walked out of an appointment due to a long wait, and 20% have changed doctors because of wait times.
Medical groups with longer wait times typically receive lower patient satisfaction scores, and lengthy wait times are associated with less patient satisfaction and medical compliance and increased no-show rates. A key factor that substantially affects wait times is poor practice workflows, which also cause productivity losses, dissatisfaction, and chronic stress among medical group personnel.
Patient wait times don’t only affect patient satisfaction. Some patients who have to wait too long to see their provider may experience worsening health, thereby increasing healthcare costs through an added level of complexity of care.
Why Patients — and Providers — Prefer Digital Health Tools
You already know that lengthy wait times equal dissatisfied patients. This is a fixable problem, though. It simply takes some strategy, communication, and the use of patient-friendly digital health tools. Many patients prefer to have the resources available to conveniently find a provider, schedule appointments, register and check in, participate in a telehealth visit, notify the front desk that they’ve arrived for their appointment, and submit funds for a copay or outstanding balance — all through their smartphone, computer, or another mobile device.
Also, as noted by MGMA, by self-reporting information such as their ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, social determinants of health (SDoH), and family health history before they arrive at the office, patients can help improve patient-reported outcomes (PROs). Physicians who prefer digital health are attracted to these tools for two main reasons: they improve operational efficiency and increase patient safety.
Online Appointment Scheduling
More than 60% of consumers have indicated that the ability to schedule appointments online is important to them when choosing a new provider. That’s just one of the findings in Kyruus’ 2023 Care Access Benchmark Report that point to patient preferences for digital health. Similarly, 89% of consumers surveyed say appointment availability is extremely or very important when selecting care.
Convenience is a big reason patients prefer receiving care from a provider whose practice offers online scheduling. They have 24/7 access to their provider’s schedule and can book appointments at a time that works best for them, even if it’s after working hours.. The result is fewer no-shows and delays, decreased administrative burden for staff, and more accurate patient-provider matching.
A manual patient intake and registration process leaves a lot of room for human error. Plus, it isn’t only inconvenient — it leads to poor time management that results in longer wait times.
Along with preventing crowded waiting rooms, digital check-in promotes better patient flow, which is associated with quality healthcare. Good patient flow reduces the pressure on provider staff, mitigates delays in treatment, and improves the overall efficiency of a practice.
Medical groups that offer digital check-in tools eliminate the need for physical patient intake tasks. A streamlined patient intake process benefits medical group practice staff by enabling them to focus on other mission-critical tasks. Other advantages of using digital patient check-in platforms included elevated patient engagement and satisfaction, enhanced coordination of care, improved HIPAA compliance, curtailed operational costs, and more reliable revenue.
As the Kyruus report indicates, 77% of consumers are extremely or very interested in completing pre-visit questionnaires online. That’s because it allows them to verify the accuracy of pre-registration materials — health insurance status, medical conditions, family history prescription list — and update them as necessary, eliminating the time-consuming and repetitive process of filling out forms.
Epion Digital Check-In enables patients to complete registration at their convenience and lets medical groups offer their patients a more personalized level of care. That means less time in the waiting room and a higher level of satisfaction. With the combination of Kyruus and Epion, you can offer your patients an online scheduling solution through which they can access a seamless self-service experience from start to finish.