Appointment Availability: How It Affects Patient Satisfaction

Appointment Availability:  How It Affects Patient Satisfaction

While not yet tied to reimbursement in a clinic or office setting, patient satisfaction can influence both operational efficiency and financial outcome of a practice. With 65% of a typical ophthalmology practice being comprised of Medicare-eligible patients, appointment availability can be a key driver in this important patient’s experience. Elderly patients can have several medical issues which limit their ability to wait for an appointment with a provider, as well as after arrival to the office. If the patient’s expectation is not met, the appointment will not be satisfactory; the patient may choose another provider for future care.

A benchmark for ophthalmology practices is to achieve and maintain a 20% new patient load. Potential referrals from peers, primary care physicians, optometrists and social network reviews may be negatively impacted by anecdotal reports of appointment availability and wait times. In a 2013 paper by the National Association for Healthcare Quality, patient satisfaction was correlated with wait times in ambulatory settings.

A white paper by Press Ganey stresses the need to manage appointments and wait times:


“Patient-centered medical practices seek to make patients feel better, both physically and emotionally. One important aspect of the patient encounter that tends to be overlooked is the time spent waiting before a patient sees a physician. Waiting to see a physician is a huge dissatisfier that increases patient anxiety and is frequently cited as a reason why patients leave a practice. Improving actual wait times, as well as patients’ perceptions of their wait, can result in increased patient satisfaction and improved bottom lines. (July 2009)”

Consider these questions about appointment availability and its possible impact on patient satisfaction:

  • What is the process for accepting new patients?
  • How long do established patients wait for a follow-up appointment?
  • Do patients see a provider within an established time of checking in?
  • Does a designated person handle the current template for all providers?
  • If more than one person is responsible for changing the templates, what quality check is in place to prevent mistakes?
  • What are the controls to prevent blocking or overbooking?
  • Is there an established protocol to ensure that all individuals who work with the system cannot interfere with the overall practice pattern?
  • Are reports run on a regular basis for analysis and to find opportunities for improvement?

A complete review of appointment availability by Advantage Administration, Inc. can provide information, metrics, and possible revisions of current policies and procedures. Contact us now for more information.