5 Tips to Help Ease Patient Wait Times and Patient Anxiety
Updated: Mar 25
No one likes to wait anywhere, especially at a doctor’s office. Unfortunately, though, waiting is a necessary part of the daily processes in any dermatology practice. Despite this, there are a few things that you can do to help ease patient wait times and help make their overall experience at your office a positive one.
1. Occupy Their Time
Unoccupied time tends to feel much longer than occupied time, so give your patients something to do while they wait, and try to make their experience in the waiting room as comfortable as possible. Many doctors’ offices offer free wi-fi so patients can check their email, scroll through Facebook, or browse the internet while they wait. If you are going to offer wi-fi, however, make sure that your connection is able to support the number of devices that will likely be on it. Otherwise, patients will grow even more frustrated when they can’t connect to your wi-fi than they would have been if you hadn’t offered any at all.
Another common fixture of most waiting rooms is at TV. While this can certainly help patients to occupy their time while they wait, it can also cause frustration if not handled properly. For instance, watching the same depressing news stories repeat over and over again might not have the calming effect you’re after. Try to choose a neutral channel that won’t cause anxiety or boredom.
In my practice, I give patients a scientifically validated questionnaire that diagnoses their Baumann Skin type and gives me valuable medical history. To learn more visit STSFranchise.com. This entertains them while they wait and makes the office visit go much faster once they are in the exam room.
2. Explain Longer Wait Times
When you visit a restaurant and are told you will be waiting for about 30 minutes, you don’t start to get impatient until around that 30-minute mark. The same can be true of your waiting room. If you know you’re running later than usual on a given day, let your patients know that there may be a 20-minute wait ahead of time. That way, they’re not expecting their name to be called every time a staff member walks through the room. We text our patients when we are running behind so that they can run an errand or grab lunch on their way over.
3. Create No-Show and Late Policies
In a perfect world, everyone would arrive on time to their appointment, every time. In reality, we know that this isn’t always the case. When one patient is late it throws the entire schedule. Most doctors overbook to make up for the no show patients. I adopted a no- show policy and it has decreased my no-show percent. This way I do not have to overbook and my schedule is much more manageable. If you don’t currently have a no-show and late arrival policy, it’s time to create one. Our policy is to give patients the no- show policy in writing on their first visit. They have one “Unexcused” no show. After that they are charged for each no show appointment (we keep a credit card number on file.) Whatever no- show policy you choose, make sure that you notify your patients of this policy so that no one feels singled out or treated unfairly. I find that when you explain to the patients that this helps your clinic run on time so they do not have to wait, they are more likely to show for their appointments or chancel at least 48 hours in advance.
4. Streamline Your Processes
Using a standardized methodology like the Skin Type Solution System allows you to not only provide your patients with something to do in the waiting room, but also to spend less time in the exam room while improving patient communication and education. The first step is for your receptionist to give your patients the Baumann Skin Type Questionnaire in the waiting room to identify their Baumann Skin Type.Your staff can then use that information to provide ready-made skincare sheets, treatment plans, and skincare recommendations for that particular skin type. You will be surprised by how much time and effort it saves. The best part is that outcomes are improved because patients are more engaged in their treatment plan which increases compliance.
5. Let Patients Know That Their Time Is Valued
No matter how long a patient has waited, the dermatologist should always thank them for their time so that they feel valued and respected. In the case of a patient who has waited an unusually long time, make sure you recognize this and apologize for the long wait. A sincere apology goes a long way to calm anxiety.
Running a medical clinic that runs on time is very difficult. Having standardized policies and procedures and staff training is key. To learn more about outsourcing staff training , visit STSFranchise.com or ask me on Linked In or Facebook.
Developed by world-renowned dermatologist, Leslie Baumann, MD, the Skin Type Solutions® Franchise System is an educational, science-based skincare store that implements a simple and reliable system to maximize skincare product sales and improve patient compliance and results.
Based on Dr. Baumann’s patent-pending Baumann Skin Typing System, this first-of-its-kind retail model provides dermatologists with the scientific methodology, training, and education necessary to prescribe effective, customized skincare regimens utilizing multiple brands of products that have been independently tested and approved by Dr. Baumann. To learn more about what Skin Type Solutions can do for your dermatology practice, visit the STS site here.