Health care organizations respond to stressful wait times

When you arrive to the doctor’s office, chances are that you’re about to wait. And wait. And wait some more.

A survey from Sequence, a design and development firm that has offices in New York and San Francisco, indicated that waiting at doctors’ offices is the main cause of stress for patients – and sometimes the reason people avoid going to the doctor altogether.

About 85 percent of the patients surveyed said they have had to wait anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes past their scheduled appointment time.

Valley resident Sabrina Leon said she has had a few experiences playing the waiting game.

“When you’re not feeling well, you don’t want to be around anyone anyway, so you’re just kind of miserable waiting there, and time definitely drags on,” Leon said.

Sequence surveyed 2,000 people, and 88 percent of people indicated they scheduled appointments by phone, while 60 percent would prefer a text message.

These concerns have prompted health care organizations to figure out how to change the way they do things.

Marjorie Baldwin, an Arizona State University professor of economics, said it’s about staying competitive and treating health service as a business.

“Traditional doctor’s offices, ER rooms, are looking at, ‘Why are we losing patients?’ And one reason is wait times, and so they will make an effort to be more responsive,” Baldwin said.

“The best thing that is happening is this competition that’s coming into the market.”

When you walk into an Arrowhead Health Centers clinic waiting room, it may look a little empty. To prevent patients from waiting, the clinic created an “on-time promise” to get patients in to see their doctor within 15 minutes of their appointment time.

“Anything you can do to make it easy for a consumer to go to the doctor’s office is going to result in better health care, and they’re going to be healthier people,” said Ken Levin, CEO of Arrowhead Health Centers.

Other medical organizations such as Dignity Health also have made efforts to be more transparent with wait times. It encourages patients to book an appointment from home and stay there until the health professional is ready to see them. They send a text alert when the office is ready.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the name of the CEO of Arrowhead Health Centers. His name is Ken Levin.