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Break the 21-Minute Patient Wait Barrier to Improve Patient Satisfaction in Doctor Marketing

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

better be promptAs medical practice marketing professionals well understand, the measure of patient satisfaction—or the lack of it—sometimes has little or nothing to do with a physician’s medical expertise. For some patients, the length of the “door-to-doctor” waiting time is a primary distinction between satisfaction and marching over to the competition.

Individual provider offices—general practitioners and specialists alike—are tracking and reporting their “wait times.” Unfortunately, there’s no way to know the tolerance level of any given patient. What’s more, healthcare delivery, especially excellent medical care, is not a foot race or an assembly line process.

It’s a point of frustration for doctors, office managers and other healthcare professionals to wrestle with a subjective and ill-defined “satisfaction threshold” such as how long a patient waits to be seen. How can you win when parameters are unfair?

One management approach is to measure against a baseline average. It turns out that the national average for waiting in a doctor’s office is about 21 minutes. How does your office compare?

Hospitals have been working with these numbers for a while. A quickly moving trend last year was for hospitals to post their Emergency Room wait times. Not every facility does it, but it’s common to find the “ER wait” on billboards, websites, text responders and elsewhere. And, as we wrote about in a previous post, some doctors’ offices have begun a similar approach.

A newspaper article from the El Paso Times offers a wide perspective on the shortest and the longest doctor’s office wait times in the US. Unfortunately for El Pasoans, that city had the distinction of having the longest waiting time in the country (29.3 minutes)… according to the publication’s survey source (Vitals.com). The best and the worst (or shortest and longest), says the El Paso Times article, in minutes for doctor office visits, are:

 Longest Waits:

  1. El Paso: 29.3 minutes
  2. Memphis: 27.1
  3. Miami: 25.2
  4. Las Vegas: 24.6
  5. Fort Worth: 23.6
  6. Arlington, TX: 23.1
  7. Louisville, KY: 23.0
  8. Fresno, CA: 22.9
  9. Houston: 22.5
  10. Philadelphia: 22.3

Shortest Waits:

  1. Minneapolis: 16.3 minutes
  2. Seattle: 16.4
  3. Milwaukee: 16.6
  4. Omaha: 16.9
  5. Portland: 17.3
  6. Denver: 17.4
  7. San Diego: 17.6
  8. Austin: 17.9
  9. Colorado Springs: 18.0
  10. San Francisco: 18.3

If your office is doing better than this 21-minute barrier, you may be doing better than your competition, and making strides in improving patient satisfaction. What’s more, a better-than-average measure may be a doctor marketing opportunity for your office.

Lonnie Hirsch

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