Your first patient of the day ran late, and now your whole schedule got turned upside down. Another patient arrived with additional – and unexpected – cardiology issues to discuss. Or you got an emergency call from home that’s thrown you off track. No matter the reason, delays and sometimes-long wait times are a fact of life. Unfortunately, a January 2022 MGMA Stat poll found that 71% of medical practices had incidents of disruptive patients increase in 2021, with “frustration over scheduling issues and patient wait times, often a byproduct of staff shortages causing longer-than-usual call-back times and/or lack of provider availability” one of the top reasons for the disruptions.
Helping patients with patience
Rather than viewing this as the new norm, we at Skin, Bones, Hearts & Private Parts asked two of our expert speakers who share their knowledge at our CME conferences, some of their top tips for defusing frustration in the waiting and exam rooms.
Melissa Rodriguez, DMSC, PA-C
Melissa, a clinically practicing physician assistant in obstetrics and gynecology, says open lines of communication are key: “The best way to combat upset patients is to keep them in the loop of any delays and changes early,” she said. “You also want to make sure they have a say in the plan; for instance, if you are running one hour behind, offer them time to get lunch or coffee in the meantime.”
Terri Nagy, MPAS, PA-C, DFAAPA
“Honesty is still always the best policy,” agreed Terry Nagy, a physician assistant in a dermatology practice. “Letting patients know when you are running behind and setting reasonable expectations allows them to know they haven’t been forgotten – it also gives them the control over deciding to wait or reschedule. A good ol’ fashioned apology goes a long way too; it sends the important message that you are aware of their schedule and that they are just as important as the previous patient who put you behind.”
Once you are ready to see your patient, be sure to sit down in the exam room! Studies have shown that when a provider sits for a visit, the patient’s impression of the time spent with them is always longer.
“Lastly, just like in our own lives, sometimes the way we respond to others has nothing to do with the other person,” Nagy added. “Keep this in mind for patients who just can’t be satisfied – they may have more on their plate than you know, and your late schedule may have just been their tipping point.”
Join us for one of our CME Conferences today!
Interested in learning more? Watch this space in the coming weeks for more tips that will help physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners alike achieve a healthy work/life balance for clinicians; reduce stress in the workplace; find out how switching employers or specialties can advance your career; and chart patient cases. And, be sure to check out our CME Conferences – available in-person, On-Demand, and by Live Stream. The 2023 calendar is now open!