What to do when patients must wait

Despite all the strategies and tactics out there, sometimes your patients still may have to wait. Often there's nothing you can do to prevent schedules from going haywire.

Though delays are sometimes unavoidable, don't allow your patients to sit and quiely (or loudly) stew over the extra time they're spending in your waiting room. Take a proactive approach using your front-office staff. Although this won't solve the delay, it will reduce your patients' irritation levels. Try these techniques:

  • Inform patients of wait upon check-in. Instruct staffers to greet patients and explain the length and reason for the delay.
  • Offer alternatives. If available, offer them some coffee or the use of a phone.
  • Give an estimate. When possible, mention how far behind the schedule the office is running, particularly if the delay is only a few minutes.
  • Don't snap back. If a patient gets irritated and takes it out on your front-office staff, train them to resist the natural urge to respond in kind.

This nugget was adapted from Customer Service for Successful Medical Practice, from Advisory Publications, a division of HCPro, Inc. To order, click here or call their Customer Service Department at 800/650-6787 for more information.

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