Hate to wait when you’re at the doctor’s office? Your patients do, too!
As patients, we all must wait to get an appointment, wait to be seen once we arrive, and wait to leave the facility after treatment. Waiting has a significant impact on patient satisfaction and brand loyalty.
Health leaders must continually generate creative, flexible solutions customized for their facilities in order to ensure customers have a smooth patient journey. One effective way leaders can streamline care and reduce wait times is to utilize advanced practice providers.
Excessive Wait Times
There’s evidence that wait times are high across the nation:
- Patients waited an average of 26 days to get an appointment in 2022, 8% longer than in 2017, according to AMN (Patient Engagement HIT).
- Patients’ wait-to-be-seen times for 2022 ranged from 20.6 days (family medicine) to as high as 31.4 days (OB-GYN), according to a Merritt Hawkins survey (HealthECareers).
- Patients spent an average of 104 minutes in the emergency department (North Dakota) to as much as 228 minutes (Maryland) during Q1 of 2021, according to SysAid (Becker’s Hospital Review).
Improving Wait Times Should Raise Patient Satisfaction
There’s also evidence that reduced wait times lead to happier patients:
- Michael et al. showed shorter wait times lead to higher patient satisfaction scores: “Significant reductions in mean waiting room and exam room wait times (p = .001 and p = .047, respectively) were observed along with a significant increase in patient satisfaction with waiting room wait time (p = .029)” (Journal for Healthcare Quality).
Using APPs Can Reduce Wait Times and Improve Patient Satisfaction
The promising news is advanced practice providers can be part of a strategic solution to reduce wait times and enhance the patient experience:
- A systematic review of 36 research articles by Carter et al. showed nurse practitioners can help lower wait times, leading to improved patient satisfaction (American Association of Nurse Practitioners).
7 Ways Leaders Can Use APPs to Help Reduce Wait Times and Improve Patient Satisfaction
Here are 7 approaches to using APPs to help streamline care and improve patient experience and loyalty at your facility:
- Have APPs handle routine and non-urgent visits. Consider using APPs for annual check-ups and non-emergent care. Reserve your physicians for more critical or specialized patient appointments.
- Use APPs to treat new patients. If your physicians are overloaded, set all new patients up with nurse practitioners, physician assistants or nurse midwives, unless physicians are specifically requested.
- Put APPs on virtual/telephone consults and follow-ups. If physicians prefer to see patients in person, put APPs on telehealth. If clinicians need to refer to the doctor for further in-person evaluation or treatment, they can do so. Alternatively, have your APPs conduct virtual follow-ups after in-office physician visits.
- Create triage partners. If your goal is to move patients through an ED or urgent care facility, partner an APP up with your triage nurse to evaluate and treat patients rapidly, reserving complex cases for physicians.
- Build patient care teams. Use a team-based approach and create primary teams that include physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants (BMC Health Services Research).
- Offer open-access or same-day scheduling. Use APPs part of your plan to “do today’s work today” and offer same-day appointments. See the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality step-by-step strategy for implementing open-access methodology.
- Avoid staff shortages and ease pressures on physicians by bringing on locum tenens APPs. Try to get a bead on your supply and demand. Then, use locums support to ramp up and reduce coverage as needed. This should ensure you have adequate staff to:
- Support fluctuating patient volumes
- Reduce provider burnout
- Improve throughput and efficiency
- Reduce wait times
- Improve patient satisfaction
- Build brand loyalty
We hope you found this resource a useful addition to your leadership toolkit. For more, visit our blog.
To reduce wait time at your facility, request locum tenens coverage today.