Both patients and staff need to wait, and both waste money when they cross the line from normal to excessive. Internal waiting waste costs money in the usual frustrating fashion, but patient waiting waste has different financial consequences.
For clinics, patient waiting waste is akin to defect waste. They walk away with a bad feeling about their experience, which then trickles into eroding, long-term reputational damage that you may not notice until it’s a real problem.
Waiting and more Waiting:
Clinics and waiting waste are like Jekyll and Hyde: you often can’t have one without the other. Patients’ top complaints are often about waiting, whether that’s in the waiting room or waiting for test results.
Waiting is inevitable, but you can help take the edge off. On top of the usual talk shows and magazines that no one wants to touch, how about some mobile games offered on your website or social media pages to keep the kids busy? Slightly less stressed-out parents can equal a lot of savings in staff fatigue.
Waiting for test results can be excruciating. Many clinics have, largely due to workload, quietly adopted a “no news is good news” approach, and sometimes don’t call patients even when the results are positive.
Unfortunately, this leaves some patients waiting for excessive amounts of time for a call that may never come. The sound of good news not being passed on and bad news being forgotten about is the same: silence.
Give your patients the heads up about your policy for test results in person. Make sure you’re on the same page about how long it will take, and that they have a number to call with any questions. Patients sitting and stewing about test results are more likely to spread negative word-of-mouth about your clinic.
When a patient doesn’t show up to an appointment, it shifts waiting waste to the clinic employees and wastes the resources spent in booking and preparing for that patient to arrive. Personal emergencies happen, and you can’t eliminate every no-show, but today’s technology makes it easier to reduce the percentage.
If you’re not already making a phone call 1-2 days in advance, consider starting. Preferably not using an automated message, which sets an impersonal tone from the start.
Technology, and the expectations for it, are changing quickly. When you call, many are unlikely to pick up an unknown number. When it goes to voicemail, a growing percentage of people (especially younger generations), simply won’t check it.
How about automated texting to confirm appointments? If someone can’t make it, they have the opportunity to simply text a code back to cancel and you’re not left waiting. The call is important, but for those who can’t be bothered to pick up, check their message, or call back, texting is a great “when-in-rome” solution.
Patients’ waiting gets all the press, but staff do their share, as well. Sometimes internal waiting waste is a result of staff waiting around because they’re trying to reduce patient wait times by making themselves accessible.
How long do your processes take? Administering a flu shot or removing a wart take, with a certain variation based on patient chattiness and other causes, a predictable amount of time.
Healthcare professionals juggle tasks all day. Make sure everyone is on the same page about how long a task takes so the next staff member to see them is there at the closest reasonable time.