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Improving Health Care for Aging Patient Populations:
6 Tactics to Minimize Wait Times

By Tim Costantino

Long wait times to see a health care provider are frustrating. But for elderly patients, a long wait time can have a massive impact on health care outcomes. Studies have shown that patients wait, on average, nearly a month to schedule a health care appointment. For an older adult who may be suffering from chronic illness, a month-long wait to see their physician not only puts the patient at risk of increasingly worse health conditions but can also lead to anxiety and distress.

For health care providers looking to improve wait times and move patients through their practice in a more efficient way, here are six proven tactics to implement now. 

6 Tactics to Minimize Wait Times for Geriatric Patients

1. Use strategic waitlists to optimize your practice’s daily schedule and prioritize elderly patient visits.

A strategically maintained waitlist that optimizes appointment times can greatly improve a practice’s daily operations and lessen the impact of no-shows and canceled appointments. Your medical office’s waitlist should be easy to access and managed by an admin team that understands how efficient patient-scheduling processes work. By implementing effective patient engagement and practice management solutions that automate scheduling tasks, a practice can establish double- and triple-booking strategies that cater to geriatric patients. 

2. Offer digital intake forms that allow patients—or their caregivers—to complete paperwork prior to their health care appointment.

Giving patients the option to complete paperwork online can be a major benefit for older patients who may have someone else completing or helping complete their intake forms. Digital intake forms also reduce the time patients or their caregivers spend filling out paperwork in your waiting room. When implementing online forms, especially when caring for aging patient populations, ensure the forms are easy to read and that they can be completed on all devices, including laptops, tablets, and mobile phones. 

3. Invest in an all-in-one EHR, practice management, and patient engagement solution to help improve productivity across your medical practice. 

One of the fastest and most effective ways to streamline workflow processes and create efficiencies across your medical practice is by implementing an all-in-one EHR, practice management, and patient engagement solution. A high performing, all-in-one medical office software platform can reduce wait times by offering admin teams wait-list management tools, automated patient communication solutions, and rooming features that give older adults the dignity and respect they desire while moving them through the office—minimizing the time spent in the waiting room. 

4. Ensure everyone on staff—admin and clinical employees—stays up to date on your practice’s technology platforms and use them correctly.

For practices that care for geriatric patients, it’s worthwhile to give staff resources that help them create an optimal health care experience for an aging patient population. It is also crucial that private practices have comprehensive onboarding programs in place for new staff and ongoing employee training initiatives on policies, workflow processes, and technology. 

It’s easy to overlook training opportunities when everyone is juggling multiple responsibilities, but training staff on technology is imperative to building a “well-oiled” practice that prioritizes patients. When used correctly, technology platforms can drive major efficiencies and exponentially improve productivity—reducing wait times while also minimizing any bottlenecks that can happen on a day to day basis. 

5. Implement self-service tools that make it easy for patients of any age to schedule their visits online. 

According to a recent report from McKinsey looking at the health perceptions and priorities of people older than the age of 55, health care providers and other stakeholders, “are wise to start dismantling the idea that elderly people don’t want, know how to use, or have a smartphone.” This insight makes clear that offering self-service tools, even for older patient populations, is a win for both the practice and the patient. Self-service tools that make it easy for older patients—or their caregivers—to schedule appointments online provide elevated levels of convenience and flexibility for patients while also reducing administrative burdens for staff. 

6. Provide multiple payment options and no-card present payment capabilities to streamline billing processes.

Giving patients multiple ways to pay their medical bills—including digital wallets, online copay collection capabilities, and no-card present payment options—helps accelerate operational efficiencies that improve the patient experience while also streamlining internal billing processes. Older adult patients in particular need more flexibility when it comes to addressing medical bills as they likely are dealing with Medicare requirements, managing multiple health care providers, and paying more medical payments than other patients. An optimized billing process that includes multiple payment options also helps private practice owners build a stronger financial foundation. 

The more a health care provider is able to minimize wait times, the better it is for everyone involved: the practice, the patient, and the caregivers overseeing their family member or loved one’s medical needs.

— Tim Costantino is vice president and head of product for AdvancedMD. Prior to joining AdvancedMD, he held multiple leadership positions in both technology and product organizations across the financial and health care technology sectors, including positions at SS&C Technologies, StayWell, and National City Bank. Costantino earned a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science in 2004, with an emphasis in artificial intelligence and psychology from Case Western Reserve University.