Who Decides if You’re Worth the Wait? Patients.

Posted by Kristin Baird

Wait time in healthcare settings matter on two important fronts. One is the wait time to get an appointment, and the other is the wait time in the waiting room.

Last year, we did tens of thousands of phone calls to practices throughout the country. We used consumers from within the market being tested. What they shared often came as a surprise to the healthcare leaders. What patients found acceptable varied by specialty and market.


Although healthcare has benchmarks for appointment wait times, it is ultimately the patient who decides if the wait is worth it or not. The same goes for the time in the waiting room.

I worked with a provider years ago who treated long wait times as a badge of honor. When I told him that patients complained about four hour wait times, he told me, “I’m worth the wait.” The funny thing was, his patients didn’t think so. During a focus group with several of his patients, I found them giving each other advice on alternative providers outside of the system.

Our on-site observations consistently show that patients are more accepting of wait times in the waiting room if they are kept informed about the wait time through interaction with the staff. This doesn’t mean shouting from the front desk. Patients had a better perception of their waiting experience if the registration person told them upfront about anticipated wait times. Additionally perceptions improved if the registration person came out from behind the desk to give them updates.

While it’s important to keep tabs on benchmarks, don’t underestimate the need to validate with your patients. It’s what they think of the wait that matters.

Want to verify patient perceptions of access? Contact us at info@baird-group.com

  1. Patients get Impatient
  2. A Sign Doesn’t Replace Interaction in Shaping the Patient Experience
  3. What are Patients Saying?
  4. Is Wait Time a Deal Breaker in the Patient Experience?
  5. Don’t Wait for the Data—Ask about the Experience Now
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