Flip No. 58

Build Better Processes for Unavoidable Wait Times

How Planning Can Ease Both Clinician and Patient into a More Productive Visit

By Durham Lab Participants

Developed at Flip the Clinic Lab: Durham

When a clinic gets off schedule, it can cause a domino effect that negatively affects everyone in the clinic. Patient stress spikes; clinicians, already rushed, now have to mollify patients. Add a toddler. Add an achy body, a runny nose, and a persistent cough.

Even if a practice takes a hard look its operations and scheduling, doing everything within reason to cut down delays, every once in a while, something unavoidable will come up. Instead yielding to that chain of negative experiences, clinics would be better off flipping their approach to delays.

How could a clinic fix this vexing problem? By approaching it head on. When there’s a delay, a chain of notifications is initiated. The patient is immediately told of the approximate wait time and given the option to reschedule. If the patient decides to stay, the clinic would use the patient’s time as productively as possible, offering small group appointments for chronic condition check ins and preventive care appointments, such as a flu vaccination. Each clinic would work out a standard set of actions that would benefit a range of patients, based on their particular health needs.

To make this chain of activity seamless, everyone in the clinic would need to be involved. Clinics would need to identify what tasks could be done. Developing this workflow should create increased satisfaction by patients and clinic staff—even when appointments get behind—will be how we know that a long wait time doesn’t really feel like waiting.


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  • jmolmo

    If each user has a Personal Health Manager (app-portal to manage his health and their family), every communication-notification is handled through this mobile app. Connected health ecosystem platform can offer a console and Notification API for which providers could communicate different communications like Waiting times to patients.

  • Leah Crouse

    At some specialty clinics it is not possible to do a “group” meeting. When a provider is running behind, we look ahead at patient whose appointments are in then next 1-2 hours. We will notify the patient that the doctor is behind and offer to have them come in at a later time that day or to reschedule. This lays the ground work for being patient centered and improving patient satisfaction by decreasing the waiting time.