Process Improvement Initiatives Reduce Lengthy Patient Wait Times, According to ASQ Survey

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Quality projects have reduced patient wait times in hospitals and clinics, according to a new survey by ASQ, the leading global authority on quality.

I am ashamed that health care has conditioned patients that waiting is acceptable. Health care’s window of patient tolerance is quickly closing.


Quality efforts have a positive impact on hospital and clinic patient wait times, but long-standing issues — like medical professionals being reluctant to change traditional approaches — make significant improvement difficult, according to a new survey by ASQ, the leading global authority on quality.

The results show process improvement projects designed to reduce average patient wait times decrease times 55 percent, from 35.2 minutes to 15.9 minutes.

According to an online survey conducted in October of 143 ASQ members in the health care profession, 82 percent said patient wait times are either a high priority or very high priority to their organizations.

But despite its priority, quality professionals often are challenged with getting non-quality practitioners to understand and adopt procedures associated with reducing patient wait times.

“The results clearly show that process improvement efforts can positively impact patient wait times,” said Susan Peiffer, chair of ASQ’s Healthcare Division. “But as physicians and other staff are rightfully focused on patient safety and outcomes, quality professionals have to help them understand that patient outcomes and reduced wait times are simultaneously achievable.”

Other challenges experienced by respondents implementing solutions to long patient wait times include:

  • “Insufficient number of medical staff”
  • “Changing culture and attitudes, unfamiliarity with process and system thinking and missing support from CEOs”
  • “Lack of physician initiative”
  • “Lack of leadership”
  • “Silo mentality”
  • “Overbooking, patient flow and scheduling errors”

There are various reasons patient wait times are higher than patients expect, according to the survey. The respondents indicate the following primary causes for long wait times at hospitals and clinics:

  • 18.2 percent of the respondents indicated that disruptions in the patient flow associated with emergencies and longer than expected treatment were a key contributor to this problem.
  • 17.3 percent say insufficient staffing or patient volumes that exceed provider availability is one of the culprits in patient wait times.
  • 16.4 percent indicated that missing or incomplete information requires follow up before patients can receive services, which increases the perceived wait times.
  • 15.5 percent said that communications issues between staff patients and providers often take more than 10 minutes to resolve, which lengthens wait times.

Peiffer said health care and quality professionals should continue to work toward reducing patient wait times and efficiencies to increase patient satisfaction, referencing a comment by a respondent: “I am ashamed that health care has conditioned patients that waiting is acceptable. Health care’s window of patient tolerance is quickly closing.”

About ASQ
ASQ, headquartered in Milwaukee, Wis., USA, is a global community of people dedicated to quality who share the ideas and tools that make our world work better. With individual and organizational members in more than 140 countries, ASQ has the reputation and reach to bring together the diverse quality champions who are transforming the world’s organizations and communities to meet tomorrow’s critical challenges.

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Brad Bennett

Brad Bennett

Brad grew up in a small town in northern Iowa. He studied chemistry in college, graduated, and married his wife one month later. They were then blessed with two baby boys within the first four years of marriage. Having babies gave their family a desire to return to the old paths – to nourish their family with traditional, homegrown foods; rid their home of toxic chemicals and petroleum products; and give their boys a chance to know a simple, sustainable way of life. They are currently building a homestead from scratch on two little acres in central Texas. There’s a lot to be done to become somewhat self-sufficient, but they are debt-free and get to spend their days living this simple, good life together with their five young children.
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