Long delays in the waiting room can tank patients’ ratings of their doctors, researchers report.
“Waiting to see the doctor is not like waiting in line for a fun ride at Disney World,” says Oren Gottfried, a professor in the neurosurgery department at Duke University School of Medicine and senior author of a study in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine.
“While a medical visit is important, it does not have the positive feedback of an amusement park ride where a two-hour wait seems worth it for even a short ride,” he says.
“This isn’t entirely surprising, but our data shows it’s something doctors need to be aware of and should manage.”
Gottfried, who studies how basic interactions can improve doctor-patient relationships, communications, and outcomes, worked with colleagues to analyze data from 15 months of patient visits to 22 spine surgeons at Duke practices. The study included more than 27,000 patient visits.
The researchers considered demographics, waiting-room times, in-room times, lead times, timely note closure, timely electronic health record responses, and monthly patient volume.
With the average clinic visit lasting about 85 minutes, the researchers found that every 10-minute increase in waiting time was associated with a 3% decrease in patient scores for the doctor on the patient’s rating of overall visit experience as well as the doctor’s communication score.
“Anytime you can improve scores by 3%, that’s big,” Gottfried says. “So if 10 minutes in the waiting room means a drop of 3%, that’s something that should be addressed, because it’s hard to make up for that in the actual doctor-patient visit.”
The National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health funded the work.
Source: Duke University