3 challenges healthcare providers face when communicating wait times to patients – part one

medical time

When it comes to the operation of a healthcare facility, the expectations of the patients and the provider often vary significantly.

This can be due to a lack of understanding on the patients’ part, as well as multiple other factors beyond the provider’s control. Yet this can lead to many obstacles for providers when looking to effectively communicate waiting times to patients.

Patients expect to be able to see their doctor on time, every time, regardless of how busy the clinic may be. When this doesn’t happen, frustration sets in, and this can put the reputation of the clinic on the line.

However, while it may sound difficult to manage both parties’ expectations, it’s not impossible.

In part one of this two-part blog, we’re going to discuss the top challenges that healthcare providers face when attempting to communicate waiting times with their patients, before providing effective solutions to these challenges in part two.

Why you should communicate waiting times

Waiting times are one of the key quality metrics that can be used to define a positive or negative patient experience.

While it can be complicated to communicate waiting times, the implications of not doing so can often be far worse. Let’s consider the negative impacts of not communicating wait times with patients:

  • Poor patient experience: Waiting for too long with no indication of when they may see the doctor is often a dealbreaker for most patients, leading to walkouts and a lack of return business.

  • Distorted perception of care: Patients who leave before being seen by the doctor often associate the extended wait time with a poor quality of care provided by the facility.

  • Damage to reputation: The first two points can lead to long-lasting damage to the reputation of the clinic if the patient decides to vent their frustration online or to friends and family. This means damaging word of mouth continues to spread.

By being aware of the risks involved with not communicating wait times, this can help your clinic find ways to communicate and even mitigate long wait times, rather than doing nothing and potentially damaging your reputation even further.

Understanding the challenges of communication

Long wait times can negatively impact patient experience, limit patient flow, and affect access to immediate healthcare.

However, before we provide some solutions to extended wait times, lets first understand the challenges, and consider the needs of both patients and providers:

  1. There’s a fine line between satisfaction and frustration
    A satisfied patient can quickly become a frustrated one if their healthcare facility is unable to clarify the reasoning for the extended wait times, despite the delay often being beyond the clinic’s control.

    This is amplified when, unbeknownst to the patient, the provider overbooks their appointments to account for cancellations and no-shows in an attempt to ensure a full schedule. While this may be in their best interest, it can lead to longer wait times for patients, increasing their frustration and further damaging the patient experience.
  1. Conflicting perception of reasonable wait times
    Providers often have differing expectations of wait times compared to their patients.

    While the patient may expect to be seen on or close to on-time, providers may view extended wait times as a by-product of a busy and successful clinic, and therefore make no effort to mitigate the issue for their patients.

  2. Venting frustration to a mass audience
    The rise of social media means that we now all have a loud voice online, which can be detrimental to any business or service provider that does not offer a pleasant experience for their clients.

    Poor reviews can spread like wildfire online, potentially causing widespread damage to the reputation of any facility with extended waiting times.
Working towards a better understanding for everyone

The increasing demand for efficient healthcare means patients are still holding out for the possibility of short waiting times and a positive patient experience.

At NEXA, we believe it’s up to both patients and providers to come together and establish reasonable expectations of healthcare clinics based on a mutual understanding of the challenges faced by both. This will allow for a more positive patient experience and help to remedy biased perceptions of wait times.

Communication and education are key to overcoming these challenges and providing solutions for both parties. In our next blog, we will explore the practical solutions you can employ to effectively manage and communicate wait times in your clinic.

Do you need help with communicating wait times?   

If you’d like expert help to build trust and understanding with your patients, as well as recommendations for managing and communicating wait times more effectively, NEXA is here to support you.

NEXA is an Australian company that delivers innovative solutions that streamline the customer journey. We offer tailored software that empowers our clients to improve their service by taking advantage of digital technology. 

Reach out to us today to find out how we can help you to make your customer interactions matter. 


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