As a healthcare organization, patient satisfaction has to be a key priority. This is because it leads to increased patient retention, improved online ratings, and higher revenues.

A recent study carried out by PatientTrak, authored by Emma Hermann, consisted of 620 patient visits, correlated over 52,000 individual data points over a three-month timeframe to compare the impact of lobby wait time, clinical time, and overall arrival-to-discharge time on patient survey responses.

The data for each patient visit contained three time-related values (columns 1-3) and four survey response ratings (columns 4-7) from each patient visit.

First Name XXX
Last Name XXX
1 45
2 50
3 95
4 5
5 5
6 5
7 4
First Name Last Name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
XXX XXX 45 50 95 5 5 5 4
Column Description
1 Lobby Wait Time
2 Exam Room Time
3 Total Arrival-to-Discharge Time
(sum of columns 1 and 2)
4 Overall rating
5 Rating of Exam Room Wait Time
6 Rating of Medical Care Received
7 Rating of Lobby Wait Time

No one likes to be kept waiting

Overall, the study showed that lobby wait time showed the highest correlation (-0.255) of any time value when compared to the overall rating. Conversely, exam room time (-0.005) showed little correlation to the overall rating and is therefore proved to not be a significant contributor to patient satisfaction.

Comparison Correlation Coefficient
Lobby Wait Time to Lobby Wait Rating -0.611
Lobby Wait Time to Overall Rating -0.255
Exam Room Time to Exam Room Rating -0.201
Arrival-to-Discharge Time to Overall Rating -0.196
Exam Room Time to Overall Rating -0.005

10-minute increase in wait time = one-point drop in the overall rating

The extent to which wait time affects patient satisfaction is also important. Further analysis showed a distinctive pattern of a roughly 10-minute breakpoint after 42 minutes where the star rating drops.

Every 10-minute increase in wait time (after an average 42-minute lobby wait time) resulted in a one-point drop in star rating in the range from five to three stars.

Here are the complete results:

Star Rating Average Lobby Wait Time
5 star 42.91
4 star 51.34
3 star 61.52
2 star 59.00
1 star 67.70

Attitudes are changing

The study showed that lobby wait time compared to lobby wait rating correlation (-0.611) was very high, demonstrating that patients’ subjective perception of wait time aligns with actual wait time.

This is because nowadays patients are much more aware of the possibilities available to them and expect their healthcare experience to be more like a customer service experience.

This means that in the same way, they wouldn’t wait for a half-hour in line at the store to buy an item, patients are no longer willing to put up with long wait times at the doctor’s office. Any delay in care is at best a minor irritant to patients, and in the worst-case scenario, irreversibly damaging to a facility’s reputation.

Patients can’t turn back the clock but their reviews and feedback can prevent other people from making the same mistake.

Long waiting times must be avoided at all costs

It goes without saying and the data proves it: No one likes to be kept waiting. That’s why it’s important to do everything you can to improve wait times and stay on schedule.

Lobby Wait Time Range by Rating 1-5 Stars

A patient tracking solution can help to quickly identify those patients that have been waiting for the longest and uncover bottlenecks in the patient flow. Patient tracking provides insights into the issues impacting smooth flow, enabling small obstacles to be tackled before they become a bigger problem.

Did you know that 20% of patients change doctors due to long wait times? As this study has shown, the lobby wait time is more important to patient satisfaction than overall arrival-to-discharge time and the time the patient spends in the exam room. Patient experience matters, both for health outcomes as well as an organization’s reputation.

Download the full study here.

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