in the industry
Those who manage healthcare services
need to meet regulatory standards and
keep patients happy at the same time.
Often, the focus is more on compliance
with regulators’ standards than with patients’ experiences. Service is fit in where
it can be, but setting a lower priority for
patients can be harmful to both business and reputation. Patients, including
those in managed care, have choices as
to where they seek their care. The largest
group of healthcare consumers consists
of seniors who have more time to shop
for providers and compare experiences
with their peers. If patients are continually frustrated with their healthcare service experience, they will go elsewhere.
That translates to lost business.
In many practices and centers, there
is a problem with patients waiting. In
healthcare, people always seem to be
waiting. We wait for the order we need
and the approval for what was ordered.
We wait for the appointment to be made,
and then wait again in the office once we
get to our appointments. Does anybody
really care about all this waiting? Does it
A Common Waiting Problem
One of the medical businesses I worked
with had a common waiting problem.
On an average day, the lobby filled up
with patients checking in for their appointments. As the morning progressed,
the lobby became congested as additional patients arrived for walk-in services.
Some patients waited in lines only to be
told they were in the wrong one. Many
worried that they might miss their appointments or be called before they finished filling out forms. This daily waiting game caused frustration for both the
patients and staff.
The problem was obvious to the employees involved, but was it the most important service issue? Were there other
issues that needed attention first? Aware
that frustrated patients could negatively
impact business, the company wanted to
know how their patients perceived the
medical care experience. Knowledge of
patients’ perceptions would be instrumental in helping the company develop
The organization sought the services
of a national market research and survey
company to develop a survey that would
collect market information and rank patient service experiences in various categories. The survey included an option
for patients to add comments. Service
experience data could also be ranked
based on any date range and quarterly
trends by question. Local managers had
access to the data on a real time basis and
could use it to make immediate changes
or watch trends of service issues. Survey
data could be accessed at a local, regional
or corporate level
When the data was reviewed, it was noted
that ranking scores for waiting time in the
lobby reflected patient frustration with
busy lobbies and long lines. This was es-
pecially true for centers that offered walk-
in services. While the overall service in
these centers was favorable, lobby wait-
ing was the lowest scoring category, con-
firming it as a primary service problem.
Comments collected provided additional
details of the patients’ experiences in the
medical facilities. It was clear that a ser-
vice solution needed to be devised with
the local management teams and they
were contacted regarding the data results.
The center chose to focus on the survey question “How was the wait time
between completing your paperwork to
having your exam?” Patients were asked
to rate the experience on a scale of 1 to 4
with 1 being lowest and 4 being highest.
The initial measure was an average score
of 3. 22 based on over 500 surveys received within a three month time frame.
While not a terrible score in isolation, it
represented the lowest score for the center within of all the areas measured.
A sample of the comments collected:
“Very disappointed in wait time. My ap-
pointment was 9:00 AM. I received a call to
arrive 15 minutes early to complete paper-
work. I arrived at 8: 45. I left the facility at
“There were only 2 people in the office
when we got there. We waited 1 1/2 hours
for a x-ray. Others were called before me that
“I made an appointment but that did not
seem to matter - it still took an hour for me
to be seen.”
By Libby H. O’Dell, BS, MBA
Why Wait on Waiting?