Everyone has an idea of how long a doctor’s appointment should take. And if that expectation is not met, you are faced with an unhappy patient and possibly even a negative online review or losing the patient to another practice.
We have worked with a number of ophthalmology and retina practices over the years who have faced this challenge. The nature of their work can involve multiple diagnostic tests or procedures in one office visit. Some of these require wait time in between to allow for dilation or to evaluate results. A “normal” patient visit may take up to 3 hours — something that is considered excessive when compared to a routine annual physical or sick visit appointment. We know other specialties face similar challenges.
So how do you manage patient expectations, especially if they are unrealistic?
Educate your patients up front.
- When the appointment is made, be sure your staff explains to the patient how much time to allow and why. Share what to expect during their office visit.
- Do this again in any appointment reminder communication — whether it be an email, text or phone call.
- Include information on your web site about “What to Expect at Your Appointment.” Walk folks through what your team does and why.
- Create periodic blog or social media posts that remind patients about the amount of time to allow for an appointment. Link them back to the section on your web site that explains it in detail.
Unmet expectations are often the root of patient dissatisfaction. Clear, proactive communication is the remedy.