As care access improves, patient wait times go down

Long wait times in medical offices have been a consistent source of patient dissatisfaction for years, but the trend may be beginning to reverse, according to a survey from The healthcare review website's sixth annual Physician Wait Time Report revealed that the average time patients spend stewing in waiting rooms has dropped by a minute over the past 12 months.

Despite this shift, which researchers attributed to Affordable Care Act-related access improvements, including the emergence of retail and urgent care clinics, team-based care and alternative practice models, wait times still average more than 19 minutes across the country, noted an article in the New York Daily News.

This figure varied by state and specialty, however. New Hampshire residents see doctors within an average of 15 minutes and 4 seconds, according to the report, while Alabama came in last, at 23 minutes and 25 seconds. Meanwhile, psychologists had the shortest wait times by specialty, at 11 minutes, 33 seconds, and pain management specialists had the longest, keeping patients waiting nearly 25 minutes.

Physician practices can reduce wait times by becoming more efficient, FiercePracticeManagement has reported previously. When delays cannot be prevented, however, office employees' clear communication with patients (including policies that enforce patient punctuality) can cut down on frustration.

And now that patients have a host of online outlets in which to vent complaints, practices would be wise to take these measures seriously, noted an article from Yahoo! Health. "The power of the Internet is a force that is inciting doctor offices to step up or lose business," said Heyward Donigan, CEO of Vitals. "Doctors realize patients have more say and choice than ever, and online reviews can make or break their reputation."

To learn more:
- check out the survey
- read the article from the New York Daily News
- see the article from Yahoo! Health