5 Ways to Cut Your Chiropractic Patient Wait Times in Half

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Are You Always Running Late?

Doc does your office consistently run behind?

Are your patients consistently waiting for 20, 30 or even 60 minutes beyond their appointment time?

Is your staff constantly having to deal with frustrated patients who are endlessly waiting?

Chiropractic offices should be leading the way when it comes to patient satisfaction.

Medical offices think it’s good if they can see a patient within 30 minutes of their scheduled appointment.

But upper cervical chiropractic offices should be at a higher standard in all aspects of care. Including chiropractic patient wait times.

Chiropractic patient wait times

Wait Times Are a Major Factor in Patient Experience

In what ways do chiropractic patient wait times affect your practice?

A few years ago, Vitals’ websites looked at millions of patient reviews of doctors and found wait times strongly correlated with how many ratings stars a provider received.

The message: shorten times, get more stars.

Wait Time Effect on Provider Rating

Star RatingAverage Wait Time
512 min, 33 sec
418 min, 29 sec
321 min, 55 sec
226 min, 33 sec
133 min, 4 sec

Another survey found that patients' top complaint about doctors was time spent in the waiting room. Nearly one in four patients (24%) said they waited 30 minutes or longer.

While it is well established that longer chiropractic patient wait times are negatively associated with clinical provider scores of patient satisfaction, another study has found that patient wait times lead to even more problems within a practice. The results indicated that every aspect of patient experience including confidence in the care provider and perceived quality of care-correlated negatively with longer wait times.

When practice members see people waiting in your office all the time they subconsciously think that your inability to efficiently run your office may translate to other aspects of your practice.

This study was looking at all types of healthcare practices but I want to challenge you as an upper cervical chiropractor to see your patients within 10 minutes of their appointment time or less.

5 Ways to Reduce Your Chiropractic Patient Wait Times

So how do you get out of this pattern of long chiropractic patient wait times?

Here are some of the most important ways you can reduce your practice members' wait times.

#1 Improve the Efficiency of Your Recurring Visits

The number one reason why your practice is running behind is because of you. If you have developed a friendship practice where you are spending most of your time chatting with your patients during their recurring visits rather than delivering the high quality upper cervical chiropractic experience that you should be then your practice will be running behind.

If your recurring office visits are taking 15 to 20 minutes you are spending wayyyy too much time!

A recurring office visit should take between 2 and 10 minutes of your time depending on technique.

So I encourage you Doc to develop friends outside of your practice so you can get your social interaction in without continuing to have a friendship practice.

#2 Improve Your Patient Flow During Recurring Visits

How do your existing patients flow from the front door to the adjusting table? The doctor should not be involved in that process at all. Every aspect of the greeting, movement from the lobby to the jump seat, or adjusting room can be directed by your CA and performed by the patient.

For example, your patient Susan walks in the door and your front desk CA greets Susan with a big smile and a personalized greeting that doesn’t ask how they are doing (i.e. “Hi Susan great to see you!”).

Susan sits down for a few minutes depending on how close she is to her appointment time. Your CA then directs Susan to go sit on the jumpseat (aka hot seat) in the hallway or directly into an adjusting room depending on availability. Your CA gives Susan her travel card to take with them if applicable (if you don't use any paper this should be even easier). Your CA should say something like this “Room one (or the seat in the hallway) is ready for you! Dr. Smith will be with you shortly!”

If the patient is in the hot seat in the hallway they had previously been trained during their first recurring visit that whenever one of the adjusting rooms becomes available they can move into it themselves without being directed.

This type of patient flow greatly increases the efficiency of the office.

Avoid these two other scenarios:

  1. Dr. Smith goes out to the lobby and gets every patient he sees and brings them back to the adjusting room. The time it takes to do this adds up exponentially over the hours, days, weeks, months and years.
  2. The front desk CA comes out from behind the front desk to take the patient back to the adjusting room. Again this time adds up and takes the front desk CA away from the phone, interacting with new patients, and away from their position near the front door so that patient greetings are missed.

Another key piece to improving patient flow is to establish a jumpseat/hot seat in the hallway. If you have 2 adjusting rooms and a hot seat in the hallway you will be able to see 15% to 25% more patients per week because you do not have to wait till they walked down the hallway. Also if you train your patients to move into the open adjusting room when it becomes available this also increases efficiency.

Also if your patients rest after the adjustment you want to train them on their first visit what to do after they’re done seeing the doctor. Including where the resting room is, how long they should be in the resting room, and what they should do when they’re done resting. All of these patient-directed activities significantly improve the efficiency of an office over time which allows you to help more people and maximize the potential of your practice.

#3 Schedule for Efficiency

Another major reason why your office is constantly running behind is you are not scheduling properly.

Your patient days should be broken down into power hours when you are only seeing regular existing patient visits and special appointment hours when you see new patients, report of findings, progress exams etc.

If your schedule is a mix of both types of appointments all day then you will frequently be running behind.

Here’s an ideal schedule for efficiency:

9 AM to 10 AM = Power Hour (schedule 6 to 12 existing patient visits based on technique)

9 AM = patient #1

9:05 AM = patient #2 (if your patient management software does not allow you to schedule at the fives you can schedule 2 patients at 9 AM, 9:10 AM, 9:20 AM and so forth)

9:10 AM = patient #3

9:15 AM = patient #4

9:20 AM = patient #5

9:25 AM = patient #6

9:30 AM = patient #7

9:35 AM = patient #8

9:40 AM = patient #9

9:45 AM = patient #10

9:50 AM = patient #11

9:55 AM = patient #12

This would be for a one-doctor practice that is highly efficient, uses an efficient upper cervical technique, and doesn't do group adjusting. If you utilize group adjusting in your practice you can see more patients than this in a power hour. If you have multiple doctors you should be able to double the schedule for each doctor you have in the practice.

If your technique does not allow you to be this efficient you can modify this basic schedule to 10 patient visits in an hour, 8 patient visits in an hour, or 6 patient visits in an hour.

But if you cannot see at least 6 patient visits in an hour utilizing an upper cervical technique there are problems with the efficiencies of your practice.

10 AM to 11 AM = Special Appointment Hour (new patients, report of findings, progress exams)

11 AM to 12 PM = Power Hour

12 PM to 1 PM = Special Appointment Hour (new patients, report of findings, progress exams)

Lunch = 1 PM to 3 PM (Make sure someone is always answering your phone. If you have multiple CA’s have them stagger their lunches so someone is always there to answer your phone. Don’t miss new patient opportunities.)

3 PM to 4 PM = Power Hour

4 PM to 5 PM = Special Appointment Hour (new patients, report of findings, progress exams)

5 PM to 6 PM = Power Hour

When you schedule your days like this it can make a tremendous difference in the efficiency of your practice and your wait times.

#4 Improve the Efficiency of Your New Patient Appointments

From the initial patient phone call, your team can improve the efficiency of your new patient appointments by following some simple steps.

Step #1 Email new patient paperwork to the new practice member before their visit so they can bring it with them and save time.

Step #2 do a new patient reminder phone call the day before and remind the patient to bring their new patient paperwork with them.

Step #3 send a text and email reminder on the day of the new patient appointment with another reminder to bring the new patient paperwork and a link to the paperwork.

This will greatly increase the likelihood that a new patient will complete the paperwork prior to their visit and will improve the efficiency of that new patient's appointment.

When they first come into your practice your CA should do everything possible to make them feel welcome. Greet them by name with a smile and come out to the lobby to shake their hand. Ask them if they would like anything to drink. Gather their new patient paperwork from them and review it.

When your CA is ready to bring the new patient back to the consultation area this is the time to get out from behind the front desk and walk them back, give them a quick office tour, get them seated comfortably in the consultation room, and ready for the doctor.

#5 Handle It in the Right Way If a Patient Has To Wait Longer Than Usual

Even if you do everything right there are still going to be times when practices run behind.

In that situation, you can still mitigate the impact on your practice members by handling it in the right way. A recent report, offers some great advice:

  • 80% of patients would be less frustrated if they knew how long the wait would be. 
  • A personal apology from the doctor would minimize frustration for 70% of patients.
  • 41% of patients would be willing to see another doctor in the practice to reduce their wait.

So if you know there is going to be a wait then have your team communicate to your patients. Personally apologize to them when you do finally see them. And if you have another doctor in the office have your team offer to let them see the other doc.

But remember this should be the exception, not the rule.

If you are constantly apologizing for running behind your patients will see it as disingenuous because you are not doing anything to change it.

Doc if you like our approach to upper cervical practice and you would like us to help you maximize your potential impact in your community then reach out to us and have a short conversation with our team about Upper Cervical Practice Mastery Coaching.

Your practice is a reflection of your life. We focus on helping you get your mindset, habits, team, and systems right so you can achieve your goals.

About the Author: Dr. Bill Davis
Dr. Bill Davis is the Founder and CEO of uppercervicalmarketing.com. His goal is to spread the word about the best-kept secret in health through Upper Cervical Specific Business and Marketing Solutions.
We understand the pain of losing valuable time and money… and what it can be like to hate your marketing. That’s why we specialize exclusively in upper cervical care and chiropractic online marketing.
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