Determining how long a healthcare appointment needs to be

Jamie Frew
Jamie Frew
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How long does an average medical appointment take?

Medical appointments can differ in length depending on the healthcare issues that need to be assessed. So it is crucial to ensure medical appointments are long enough for proper evaluation. You don’t want to miss any critical information in health appointments or take more time than you need to prevent eating into time that you could use to see other patients. According to the American Time Use Survey, researchers found that the average appointment duration was 121 minutes, including travel, waiting, and paying, with only 20 minutes of that time spent seeing a doctor. 

Many healthcare companies offer advanced software to guide you towards effective appointment scheduling, such as Carepatron, to ensure you and your patients are getting the most out of your sessions. However, we also want to help consolidate your understanding of health and telehealth appointment scheduling and the factors that go into it. 

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What are the factors that influence the length of a healthcare appointment?

Surprisingly, numerous factors go into the length of healthcare appointments and can affect how you schedule health and telehealth appointments. While the exact content of the appointment doesn’t matter to its length, other aspects can influence length, including:

Patient volume targets - It’s often the average number of patients seen in a day that determines the number and length of appointments. Knowing these statistics means you can effectively schedule an appropriate number of patients and determine how long appointments need to be to accommodate the clients.

Patient cooperation - Having cooperative patients who work with you to get solutions is more likely to have shorter appointment times. They are much more productive, and working together smoothens out any potential issues that may arise.

Type of illness - Although appointment length doesn’t strongly correlate to the patient’s condition, this still can affect length in some cases. Occasionally, the practitioner may vary the time for patients with severe problems or who present health issues that aren’t particularly important.  

Resources and facilities - If resources needed aren’t available; this can mean that appointments take longer than usual. More time and effort are spent locating what the patient needs and testing for their health issue. 

How to reduce healthcare appointment wait times for patients?

Wait times are significant for healthcare practices, as too long a wait time can lead to patients switching to another healthcare practice. They’re not unusual either, with the average wait times for clinician practices being 20 minutes and hospitals being 17 minutes. It doesn’t feel nice to wait around and not feel you’re prioritized, especially when it comes to health, so you must consider how to make wait times as short as possible. 

Increased patient care access - Opening more avenues for patients to be seen can significantly reduce wait times. Half of the time, there aren’t enough appointments available or doctors free to see patients, and so this should be the center of your focus. Training medical professionals, regardless of their specialty, to treat common medical conditions, in addition to educating patients on when to be seen, can prevent unnecessary appointments for non-urgent healthcare matters. Digital appointment scheduling can also allow more patients to book themselves and be able to book for same-day appointments. 

Pre-registration - Patient pre-registration can improve the organization of the business, and it prevents backlogs in the daily schedule. Contacting patients beforehand for essential contact information such as email addresses and phone numbers and insurer and medical history information can save time that could be spent on other patients.

Information transparency - So rarely does anything perfectly go to plan, which is no different in the healthcare sector. Patients value the ability of healthcare services to adapt. This includes prioritizing patients who may have been waiting a while and being very clear about the information presented to them. If patients know precisely what is expected and the standard of care, the appointment wait time can be significantly reduced. 

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Appointment scheduling in healthcare: Challenges and opportunities

Appointment scheduling in healthcare can be exciting, as it poses various challenges and opportunities for healthcare clinics. To name a few, these can include:

Patient wait times - As discussed, patient wait times can prove a challenge when there are a lot of patients to be seen, and various factors must be controlled to ensure efficient wait times. But not to worry! Patient wait times provide an exciting chance for you to transition to medical technology that schedules patients effectively and efficiently, preventing any overcrowding or double-booking.

Late cancelations and no-shows - Cancellations and patients who do not show up can be frustrating, as your healthcare practice costs time and money to accommodate this. You also want to have a high retention rate with your patients, not only for the success of your business but to build healthcare relationships with your patients. This can be overcome with schedule reminding software, so patients don’t forget and know in advance when their appointment is. 

Resource allocation - Appointment scheduling can be based on the patient’s diagnosis or healthcare needs and what resources are required to treat or assess the patient. This can be difficult if multiple patients with the same condition require the same testing and if there are limited resources. 

Patient preferences - Every patient is different and may prefer specific methods over others, such as telehealth appointments or online billing instead of paper. It can be challenging to meet all these needs, but with strategic planning, your practice can diversify and offer a variety of features to meet demand. 

Effectively scheduling healthcare appointments with scheduling software

Appointment scheduling software is the perfect way to address multiple common scheduling issues at once, and you’ll find it’s also one of the most commonly used methods by healthcare practices. Many healthcare platforms, such as Carepatron, focus on creating software for healthcare businesses with this very purpose in mind; to make appointment scheduling easy to use and increase efficiency within your practice. 

Online appointment scheduling software means that clients can make an appointment at any time of day without enquiring on the phone, which can take time. The self-service is very user-friendly, which doesn’t require additional installments or server technology expertise, and it’s also very customizable. Being flexible to the needs of your business is super valuable and allows you to have a smoother, more integrated platform. You can also ensure full-service maximization with multiple payment options to put your patient care and needs first. 

Appointment scheduling software also provides free reminders, so your patients can be reminded of when their upcoming appointment is. This significantly reduces the likelihood of no-shows and cancellations, which, if accumulated, can be costly for your healthcare practice. Patients can also easily view in advance when their appointments are, with options to reschedule if needed. It’s a win-win situation. 

Final thoughts

Various factors go into appointment scheduling, and that can influence the length of your appointments. As well as this, appointment scheduling can pose different challenges and benefits for your practice, which can be a daunting prospect and a fascinating one.

Here at Carepatron, we want the best for your healthcare practice and your patients. We know the importance of efficient appointment scheduling to see as many people that need help as possible, in addition to optimizing staff expertise—using an advanced appointment scheduling software such as ours can provide immense benefits and equip you with the resources to be able to avoid double-booking, overcrowding, long wait times, as well as cancellations and no-shows. It’s the easiest way to manage appointments and provide a high standard of care for your patients. Get started with us today!

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