In an age of instantaneous news and demands for immediate gratification, patients will no longer put up with long wait times and hospitals are taking notice. Hospitals across the country are finding ways to make their services more customer-friendly, including cutting patient downtime to increase patient satisfaction, Hospitals & Health Networks Daily reports.
Patients spend an average of about 22 minutes waiting to see their doctor at clinics, according to Press Ganey, and as the minutes continue to tick away, patients become increasingly frustrated. Hospitals and physician offices report patients sometimes refuse to wait and walk out on appointments. One woman was so frustrated she sent a bill to her physician for wasting her time.
"I think we're a much more healthcare-savvy community, and we've seen with all the social media that we like, as a society, immediate gratification. I don't think the healthcare consumer is any different," Christina Dempsey, chief nursing officer of Press Ganey, told H&HN Daily. "However we can minimize that time from arrival to provider or bed or whatever the destination, we need to do that, and that is the expectation from the consumer."
To help cut patient downtime, hospitals like Good Shepherd Medical Center in Texas are trying innovative ways to decrease patient wait times. For example, rather than making non-urgent patients wait for hours to be seen in the emergency department, clinicians at the facility perform a medical screening, determine a transition path and connect patients with primary care physicians if they don't have them.
Springfield (Ohio) Regional Medical Center is reducing ED wait times by having a physician's group staff triage during peak hours, according to the Springfield News-Sun. The center hopes the strategy will help staff prioritize cases and initiate orders for how to treat patients more quickly.
And emergency department patients at Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, N.J., have a shorter wait time for treatment than those who visit the average New Jersey Hospital, the Ridgewood-Glenrock Patch reports. That's because the hospital took an organization-wide approach to addressing patient flow, quality and satisfaction issues in the ED. Peter Diestel, COO, told the Patch those issues included long door-to-doctor times, timely discharges, long lengths of stay in the ED for those admitted and patients leaving without being seen.
But Dempsey warned hospitals to not view wait times as an ED problem. "Usually," she said, "when you see long waits, it's an organization-wide problem, and you can't fix it by focusing on one particular area. When you want to look at organizations that are making a difference in waiting time, it's those who have understood that they have to tackle it as a system-wide problem, not just a department problem."