Patients perceive long waiting times as a barrier to obtain medical services. Keeping patients waiting can be a cause of stress for both patient and doctor. Even though the long patient wait time is not a good thing but activities like Secretary verifying insurance information or Medical Assistant preparing an exam room takes a lot of time. We can utilize this waiting time for providing clinical, financial education and ultimately increasing overall patient engagement. A small gesture toward patient engagement can go a long way in terms of patient retention and satisfaction.
You can engage your patients in the following ways:
- Patient’s comfort must be the prime responsibility:
Think about your patient’s comfort all the time. In a waiting area, something as simple as magazines, a TV, or a few children’s toys are always recommended. Providing bottled water or the availability of reading glass to fill out the paperwork can be a good option. Patients notice and often remember these small details long after the appointment is over.
- Update Patient and Insurance information:
Waiting time is a great opportunity to update the patient’s address, phone number, email address, and insurance information. Consider providing patients with a printout while they wait so they can take their time reviewing and updating information. You can also provide a computer tablet for easy details verification and updation.
- Hire a patient advocate:
The patient advocate can assist patients by answering questions and other concerns that the physician can’t address during the actual appointment. The cost of hiring a patient advocate can be redeemed through time saved on back-end accurate data collection and appreciation from the patient for providing unbiased third-party opinion.
- In-depth information about financial assistance:
Communicate financial policy for your practice to your patients to avoid any payment confusion or discrepancies in the future. This could include brochures about tax-deductible health savings accounts (HSA) or local charities that can help patients in need. The policy should be comprehensive and address issues pertaining to your practice specialty and patients. You can also ask patients whether they have any billing-related questions while they wait—and remind them of any outstanding balances that are due. Clearly define patient responsibilities for all non-covered services.
- Educate the patients about the dangers of non-compliance:
Consider providing a resource on what can happen if a patient with diabetes doesn’t take his or her insulin. Another example is a patient with depression who suddenly stops taking his or her anti-depressant medication. This engages patients while they wait and provides subtle and non-intrusive education that can drive positive behavior change. Rather than hiring new resources, you can train existing staff.
- Introduce patients to the portal:
Patient waiting is an ideal time for providing patients with a username, password, and brief introduction to the portal. You can provide portal education by including access to a laptop or tablet in the waiting area so patients can sign up with the help of an office assistant. But you have to make sure that the portal contains useful information. If the patient can’t access the meaningful data then there is no point convincing them to sign up for the portal.
- Encourage them to fill a brief satisfaction form:
Asking patients to provide a brief satisfaction forms or dropping cards in a suggestion box can be a great way of utilizing patients’ time.