Background: The amount of waiting time a patient experiences in a primary care or specialty care outpatient setting may have an effect on patient satisfaction and may depend on other visit characteristics. We sought to investigate and quantify the association between waiting time and satisfaction outcomes in clinics belonging to the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and assess how this relationship varies by time spent with the provider.
Methods: Cross-sectional survey data was collected at point of care from 18 primary and specialty care clinics at the Center Overall satisfaction with provider care, the office ratings, and willingness to return were each rated on a 0-to-10-point scale. Multivariate and logistic regressions were performed to examine the relationship between waiting time and outcomes. Covariates included visit time spent with physician, patient care processes, visit convenience, and demographics.
Results: 2,444 cases were analyzed Waiting time significantly predicted provider ratings. When time spent with the physician was five minutes or less, provider ratings decreased by 0.3 rating points for each 10-minute increase in waiting time. When time spent with the physician was greater than five minutes, provider ratings decreased by 0.1 rating points for each 10-minute increase in waiting time. The association between waiting time and office satisfaction showed a similar pattern; increased waits also decreased willingness to return (odds decrease by 2% per minute).
Limitations: Results may be affected by unreliability of the measures used and from possible selection bias. There is also concern over missing confounders.
Conclusions: Our findings confirm that reduced waiting time may lead to increased patient satisfaction and greater willingness to return in primary and specialty care outpatient settings. Furthermore, increased waiting time combined with reduced time spent with the physician coincide with noticeable drops in patient satisfaction.