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Making a Difference With Excellent Patient Service

Manage patient expectations

Making a Difference With Excellent Patient Service

Frequently patient’s expectations for timeliness or other aspects of the healthcare experience don’t mesh with the realities of a busy practice. Working with patients to ensure realistic expectations can go a long way toward improving patient satisfaction.

Baird says you can avoid complaints about wait time, for example, if you manage patients’ expectations.

Let them know up front when you are experiencing delays. “If you know the schedule is behind, don’t let a patient wait 45 minutes to be surprised by that,” Baird says. “Anticipate and manage expectations up front by saying ‘We’re running 45 minutes behind schedule. Would you like to wait or to come back in half an hour?’”

Murphy agrees and says that wait times are not as frustrating for patients if they are kept updated on the status of things. “It’s not the long wait, it’s the fact that no one updates the patient about the wait,” says Murphy. “Fifteen to twenty minutes is about as long as most people can go without an update.”

Another strategy, which Murphy recommends is to under promise and over deliver. If you know that the patient will likely be seen by the doctor or for a procedure in 15 minutes, tell them it will be 20. Never use vague terms like “soon” or “in a few minutes” because that might mean three minutes to one patient and 30 minutes to another. Also, let patients know what to expect in terms of how their care is likely to play out.

For example, you might say to a patient who is about to get an x-ray that the wait time is 20 minutes, the procedure will take no more than five, the results will be to her doctor by the end of the day, and that the patient should hear from her doctor within 48 hours.


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