How Long Are Patients Spending in Waiting Rooms in 2021?

November 18, 2021

A recent survey found that over 80% of patients have to wait more than 30 minutes past their scheduled appointments to see a doctor. 

That makes the waiting room one of the most stressful and annoying places for a healthcare consumer to be.

But just how long are patients spending in waiting rooms in 2021? And if your healthcare clinic is struggling in this area, what can you do about it?

We’ll answer both of those questions and tell you more about the modern healthcare consumer’s waiting room experience in the sections below.

How long are patients waiting to be seen in 2021?

Ideal and average wait times in the US

Average wait times in the United States vary based on the type of medical treatment that a patient is seeking. 

For example, the average wait time to see a general practitioner is 18 minutes and 13 seconds. But the average wait time at the emergency room is about 40 minutes.

Waiting room times have a big impact on patient satisfaction. 

Research shows that healthcare clinics with wait times of just over 13 minutes had the highest scores for patient satisfaction, while those with wait times of over 34 minutes had the lowest scores.

This means that, in an ideal world, you want your healthcare clinic to get its waiting room times as close as possible to the 13-minute mark. 

If you can do that, you should eliminate one of the leading causes of patient dissatisfaction from your practice. This could have a big impact on your bottom line.

Has COVID affected how long we wait?

You might expect a global pandemic like COVID-19 to increase patient wait times, but the opposite has actually been true. 

Research shows that patients generally spend less time waiting for a physician now than they did before the pandemic.

That’s because hospitals and healthcare clinics now have a huge incentive to reduce the amount of time that patients spend around other individuals who need medical attention.

Health clinics have managed to reduce patient wait time by emphasizing proper arrival times and implementing more efficient and optimized scheduling and visitation practices.

What other factors affect patient wait times?

Patients who have to wait a long time to see a doctor often end up asking themselves what could possibly be taking so long. But it’s never really just one thing.

There are tons of different variables that all come together to determine a patient’s wait time. These can include:

  • Which healthcare services the patient before them needs
  • Over-scheduling
  • Inefficient administrative procedures
  • Malfunctioning equipment
  • Late arrivals
  • Unexpected medical situations that require immediate attention

This is why it can be really difficult for a healthcare clinic to bring its wait times down. To do so, clinics need to effectively address a myriad of factors — any one of which could throw their wait times out of whack.

Top ways digital signage can improve the patient waiting room experience 

Providing your patients with a digital-first patient experience could be the solution to your waiting room woes. 

Investing in technology like digital signage is one of the most effective ways to do this. Here’s why.

Create digital check-in kiosks

Digital check-in kiosks are one of the most effective ways to reduce wait times in your clinic. 

Digital signage powers these and allows patients to check themselves into their appointments when they arrive.

Digital check-in kiosks reduce patient wait times by eliminating one of the most time-consuming tasks from your administrative staff to-do list. When your front office staff doesn’t have to constantly stop what they’re doing to check new arrivals in, they can get a lot more done.

This often has the net impact of bringing down patient wait times. So if you’re looking to reduce the amount of time that patients spend in your waiting area, investing in digital check-in kiosks is an excellent first step.

Keep your patients entertained

Do you ever notice how time seems to fly by when you’re enjoying yourself but crawls by incredibly slowly when you’re not? 

That’s because when we’re occupied and not thinking about the passing of time, it generally seems to move faster. You can apply this principle to your waiting room.

Another way to improve your waiting area experience is to keep the patients in it entertained. Doing this should help to take their minds off of your wait times, which can make them feel shorter.

So, how do you keep your patients entertained? 

One strategy is to use your digital signage devices to stream video content. UPshow offers more than 500 channels of streaming entertainment, including:

  • Television shows
  • Movies
  • Viral videos
  • Local news
  • Regional sports
  • And more

Our software makes it easy to strategically deploy video content in your clinic’s waiting area to improve the experience that your patients have in it.

Let your patients know how long they have to wait

Often, the worst part of waiting is the unknown. 

When you have no idea whether you’re going to wait another hour or just a few minutes, wait times can get pretty brutal.

That’s why another way to improve your waiting room experience is giving your patients an accurate estimation of how much longer they need to wait. You can use digital signage for this as well.

The idea is to display your patients’ names (or numbers tied to their names if HIPAA is a concern) on your digital signage screens in the order that you’ll see them. 

That way, they can easily identify how many people are in front of them and will be able to gauge how much longer they’re going to have to wait.

Engage your patients with games

Games are another excellent way to keep patients engaged and entertained in your waiting area instead of bored and counting the seconds going by. Digital signage can help with this, too.

For example, you can use your screens to display health-related trivia questions. These will get your patients thinking and will help to occupy their minds with something other than waiting. It’s another strategy that could help you turn your waiting area into a better place to be.

Get your patients thinking

You can also use digital signage in your waiting areas to share important health information with your patients. With this strategy, you turn an otherwise dull experience into one that gets your patients thinking more about their health.

There are lots of different angles that you can take with this. For example, you could share facts about common health issues like the flu and obesity. Or you could advertise some of the special services that your clinic offers and highlight why a patient may want to take advantage of them.

It’s another way to take your patients’ minds off of how long they’re waiting and on a more interesting and fruitful topic.

Other strategies for reducing patient wait times

Investing in digital signage is a great first step towards reducing wait times at your clinic. 

But there are other strategies that you can use alongside digital signage to bring your wait times down even more. Here are some examples.

Let patients complete paperwork before they arrive

One of the most time-consuming parts of the waiting process is completing paperwork and having your staff review it. 

You can make this process more efficient by allowing your patients to complete their required paperwork online.

If you do this, your staff can review a patient’s information before they arrive at your clinic. This eliminates a big step of the waiting process, which could reduce your wait times by quite a bit.

Design and enforce a more aggressive late policy

When a patient arrives at your clinic late, they can throw off wait times for all of the patients who you schedule around them. 

That’s why you may also want to consider designing and enforcing a more aggressive late policy.

You can consider implementing a small fee for patients who arrive late or require them to reschedule. This should incentivize more patients to make it to their appointments on time.

Track your waiting times

As you make all of these changes, you need a way to see whether they’re having the impact on your clinic that you want them to. That’s why it’s important to track patient waiting times.

Doing this will give you the data that you need to see whether your investments and strategic shifts are working or not.

UPshow makes adding digital signage to your practice a breeze

If you’re serious about bringing your wait times down, then making a strategic investment in digital signage could be your solution. 

UPshow makes it easier to unlock the full potential of your digital signage system.

Our software enables you to customize the content that you share and manage it from any internet-enabled device. You can use it for each of the waiting time reduction strategies we highlighted in this article.But don’t take our word for it. You can sign up for a free custom demo of UPshow today to experience the value we provide yourself.

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