The Waiting Is The Hardest Part
We hear you. You have spoken to us during your visits, thoughtfully completed your post-visit satisfaction surveys, and even offered your ideas to our suggestion boxes. WAIT TIMES HAVE INCREASED! Whether you are in the office for an appointment or at home connecting to our triage nurses, you have noted delays.
As always, we strive to be transparent in our approach and to acknowledge our challenges.
To better understand this challenge, we have tried to identify those factors that most directly impact wait times. We would like to share this analysis with you. Read on for a “behind the scenes” view of your appointment – what influences wait times, what we are doing to improve, and what you can do to help us help you.
Why Do You Wait?
Historically, wait times in our office are driven by a number of factors; emergencies, late arrivals, no-shows, and complex patient care. More recently, the COVID pandemic introduced additional considerations; time awaiting test results for symptomatic patients, exam room shutdowns after positive cases to reduce the risk of exposure to the next patient in that room, and providers donning/doffing PPE between patients. During COVID, we have also been forced to room patients immediately to reduce possible exposures, leading to more wait time in a cramped exam room, rather than in the waiting area where entertaining children may be easier.
Callback response times have seen a similar fate. Triage nurse call volumes have hit record numbers in our office, largely due to COVID anxiety and a huge spike in other childhood illnesses as society has loosened restrictions. Call volume has been averaging about 150 each day – not including Follow My Health inquiries, routine lab call backs, imaging follow-ups, and messages coming through our website.
We are also not immune from facing the same staffing shortages as other service industries. You have seen the challenging result!
What Are We Doing About It?
We know that communication is critical, and this is just one area where we endeavor to improve. Additionally, we will always strive to:
Room you quickly. As COVID infection rates remain high, we will continue to move you into an exam room as quickly as possible after your arrival. We know this means you will spend more time in the actual exam room, so at your request, we will supply toddlers with coloring pages and crayons. We are also reintroducing our lending library.
Keep you in the loop. At the start of each day, our Medical Assistants (MAs) will huddle with the providers to preview the day’s schedule, highlighting complex cases and anticipating potential delays. Our Clinical Floor Manager will work with the MAs and providers to oversee flow in real-time and alert staff to issues as they arise. When the MA rooms you, they will let you know how many patients are waiting ahead of you to see your provider. If your provider begins to run behind while you are waiting, the MA will check back in to let you know.
Hold ourselves accountable. Leveraging new reports in our system, our Practice Logistics Manager is now monitoring intervals between the various steps that make up your visit; including check-in, rooming, provider start time, and check-out. This will help us identify where delays are happening most frequently and provide us with the data to address issues quickly. For example, we have seen holdups at the end of well visits, as children wait for their vaccinations. In response, we will now strive to give you the choice of requesting vaccines at the start of your visit, before the provider sees your child. This will streamline your wait time and, hopefully, have the added benefit of more quickly calming the nerves of our more shot-anxious patients.
How Can You Help?
As your “partner in parenting,” we also humbly ask for your assistance in making the most of your experience with our office.
Complete your online Pre-Visit check in. In advance of your appointment, you will receive a “pre-visit” check-in link, by both email and text. You choose which format is easiest for you. Completing this simplifies the check-in process in our office, which reduces your time in our waiting room. Additionally, the advance reporting of symptoms and completion of developmental questionnaires affords your provider valuable insight to your child’s health that allows them to tailor the exam to your needs. Lastly, the pre-visit includes links to what you can expect at your visit, so you can come prepared with questions about specific vaccines and age-appropriate milestones.
Use Our Website. The more you use our website resources before calling, the faster our Triage Nurses will be able to respond to those calls that require a personal touch.Our website has extensive, vetted resources and should be your first stop before contacting our triage nurses. Our own Wait-Worry-Panic Guide identifies several common symptoms and provides direction on how best to manage them – at home or with our support. Dosing guidelines are common questions and are listed on our website for a variety of over-the-counter medications. Our vast Medical Library includes resources to support your child at any stage of development, including a Symptom Checker and an enhanced section highlighting what to expect at your Well Visit. Our Community Resource List highlights trustworthy specialists for an assortment of special needs and our Blogs – authored by our own providers – cover a wide range of topics we know are important to you. Unsure where to start? Just search a topic on our website and you are guaranteed to find support quickly, at any hour.
Submit Forms Online. The fastest way to submit a form for completion is to use the dedicated forms page on our website. This routes your request directly to the team that handles these requests, minimizing your wait time and ensuring proper completion. This link can be used for school, camp or daycare forms.
Use Follow My Health. Our online portal, Follow My Health, is available 24/7 and gives a complete snapshot of your child’s medical history. There, you will find vaccination records, visit summaries, medication lists and more. You can print details direct from the system at any time, without having to contact the office.
Lend Your Voice!
Of course, the most important thing you can do to help us is to share your experiences. We take your survey responses very seriously. Hearing from you informs our quality improvement efforts and allows us to focus our efforts where there is the greatest need. Want to do even more? Consider joining our Parent Advisory Board, a group that meets throughout the year to discuss our challenges and brainstorm solutions.
Thank you for reading. We will share additional details as our work continues. Until then, we wish you a happy and healthy start to the summer.
Center City Pediatrics