It’s no secret that waiting is a huge dis-satisfier for anyone. But it’s really not the wait time that is the most disconcerting, it’s not knowing how long the wait will be and why there are delays.
I recently contracted for a landscaping project that was to take three weeks and ended up taking 13 weeks. Sure, there were a few rainy days that kept the crew away. Those were the days when I knew that work couldn’t be done outside. But it was the clear days with no activity that drove me crazy. I’d look out at my yard and see piles of rubble, bulldozers, and forklifts sitting idle and my blood would boil. I needed not only action, but information. When would the crew be on site? How long will it take? What is causing the delay? The difference between an irate customer and an understanding one was a simple as a phone call or text.
Waiting rooms are filled with people asking themselves similar questions. How long will it be? What is causing the delay? Lack of information is a huge dis-satisfier and one that can be prevented by managing expectations up front and keeping your patients informed. When you tell a patient to arrive at 6:00 AM for surgery without providing more information you are inadvertently setting the expectation. They envision being wheeled into the OR by 6:15. After all they have no idea what it takes to prep for surgery.
Yet if you ask the patient to arrive at 6:00 and tell them that there is prep work that must be done and that their actual surgery isn’t scheduled until 10:00 you’ve set a much different expectation.They understand that there is a delay and plan for that.
I’ve witnessed patients waiting up to 4 hours in waiting rooms and never once having a staff person interact with them to let them know about delays. Of course this is the extreme. Teach your staff to set expectations immediately upon arrival. Tell the patient if you are running late and by how much. Promise to keep them informed. And then follow through. There are many things that cause a rise in blood pressure. Stress over wait times shouldn’t be one of them. Keep your customers informed!