Three Tips for Reducing Wait Times at Your Rheumatology Practice

The number one complaint patients have about their physicians isn’t insurance, or billing, or the quality of care they receive.

So, what irritates patients the most? The length of time they spend in the waiting room.

Per a recent study, the average time a patient spends waiting for a scheduled appointment is about 20 minutes. For patients who have lives, responsibilities, children to take of or jobs to be at, 20 minutes can make or break a person’s day. Even more critical for your rheumatology practice, it can affect whether a patient decides to return.

To keep your patients happy and returning, it’s essential to keep wait times as short as possible. Easier said than done, we know. However, there are several things you can do to keep things in your office moving. By making a few small changes in your process, you can get your patients in and out while also giving them the care they need and deserve.

Understanding the issue.

The first step to fixing a problem is understanding its underlying causes. According to data gathered by the website Software Advice, the main factors that contribute to long wait times are — patients arriving later than their scheduled appointment time and patients dealing with unexpected issues, such as missing documentation.

No wonder wait times are such an issue, and so hard to control! Most of the time, it’s not the fault of the practice or the physician, but the patient. Of course, blaming the patient isn’t going to make them feel better. Instead, a good strategy is to find solutions that are within your control.

Help patients get to appointments on time.

Sometimes a patient will be running late, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it—traffic jams, sick children, and work emergencies affect everyone. Other times, however, a patient is late because they haven’t planned their day well or simply forgot about their appointment until the last minute.

To keep this from happening, send your patients multiple reminders in the days leading up to their appointment, and use various formats. An email, a phone call, and a text message will help your patients reduce their wait time.

[Is your office ready for texting? If so, check out this blog post!]

Cut down on unexpected issues.

Much like helping patients get to their appointments on time, ensuring they have everything they need once they arrive is also an exercise in clear communication. One thing you can do is send patients any necessary paperwork you’ll need filled out ahead of time and ask them to complete it before their appointment.

Then, if there is something, they have to bring with them or a form or number they need, they’ll be able to find it ahead of time, instead of realizing it is missing when they’re standing in your waiting room.

While wait times are a constant struggle for all rheumatology practices, a few small changes to your processes can go a long way toward making them shorter.

If you have an exceptionally short wait time average, share your secrets to success on the NORM Facebook page!

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  • As a speaker at the first ad hoc meeting of rheumatology practice managers gathered in a single small room at its infancy a decade ago, I’m amazed to see how NORM has blossomed into a high energy organization of depth and professional meetings with parallel break-out symposia between plenary sessions. NORM has truly come of age. This is where the “business” of rheumatology gets learned. The ”guildmanship” for rheumatology practice management is now strong.- Paul H. Caldron, DO, FACP, FACR, MBA, Arizona Arthritis and Rheumatology Associates
  • In a time of demanding changes in the management of medical practices in the US, NORM has been a lifesaver to the community of Rheumatology practices.  NORM has allowed our practice to stay ahead of the many demands of CMS and others payors and has ensured that our practice remains cognizant of new issues that arise in HIPPA compliance, human resources and medical billing to name a few. Sending our Practice Manager to NORM's conferences has been cost-effective and beneficial to our practice because she returns to our office with an abundance of information that otherwise would have taken months to compile. Every Rheumatology practice that wishes to stay on top of emerging issues in practice management should consider sending a member of their staff to NORM's conference.- Michael S. Rosen M.D., Chester County Rheumatology PC
  • Thanks to all those wonderful people in the NORM Network who respond to emails, offering their advice, experience, time, and support ... I haven't even been a member a full year yet and I am amazed at the dedication of everyone who responds to helping via emails and the NORM Organization itself! I have barely had a chance to explore the resources and I have yet to really dive into requests for help still I am silently learning so much and do occasionally offer what I can! Thank you all!- Cheryl Piambino, Kenneth E. Bresky, DO

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