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Leadership: Customer Satisfaction And Wait Times

I have noticed that customer’s reported pain levels correlated with increased wait times. Management of wait times, I believe that this is an important factor in improving patient and customer satisfaction. I intend to illustrate this with a review of my experience.

I have over twenty years of successful history in health care leadership and entrepreneurship. I led an organization to the top 2% in physician satisfaction as measured by Press Ganey, a renowned auditor of customer satisfaction in health care.

My first observations on patient’s perception of satisfaction based on variation versus averages occurred when I owned and operated a physical therapy clinic. I was earnest and sincere in my efforts to provide an exceptional customer experience based on quality and delivery of the service.

One of my focuses in for improving patient satisfaction was to limit the time the patient had to spend in the waiting room. I realized this first by casual observation. I noticed that if patients had to wait in excess of five minutes in my waiting room before being called back to the treatment area, their pain level tended to be higher when they reported it on a scale of one-to-ten.

I back tested my theory by reviewing previous sign in sheets and comparing them with their treatment start times as documented in their charts. I synchronized my sign in and treatment clocks to minimize error in reporting prior to my back testing. I also took a sampling of patients for various times of day and diagnosis.

Once I had defined this issue in terms of a customer dissatisfier, I thought about ways that I could minimize their waits. Regulatory and safety issues limit the number of people that any one therapist can supervise, treat, at a given time, so at first I was restricted in my thinking.

Necessity is the mother of invention, however, and I felt that this was a big dissatisfier that needed to be addressed. I arranged my entrance so that patients were encouraged to enter the treatment area independently rather than sit in the waiting area. I arranged the area of the gym that they entered in an inviting manner with comfortable sitting and coffee. Essentially, I moved the waiting area into the treatment area.

My outcome was that patients had accelerated declines in reported pain levels and an overall reduction in their lengths of stay. This was not a true scientific study, however, and I did not have the data necessary to substantiate my claims. That said, I believe that waiting times are directly proportional to customer’s satisfaction levels as based by reported pain. Management would do well to assess this at their facilities.