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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Willing to wait?: The influence of patient wait time on satisfaction with primary care

Roger T Anderson1*, Fabian T Camacho1 and Rajesh Balkrishnan2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Public Health Sciences, Wake Forest University Health Sciences, Medical Center Boulevard, Winston-Salem, NC, 27157 USA

2 College of Pharmacy and School of Public Health, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, 43210 USA

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BMC Health Services Research 2007, 7:31  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-7-31

Published: 28 February 2007

Abstract

Background

This study examined the relationship between patient waiting time and willingness to return for care and patient satisfaction ratings with primary care physicians.

Methods

Cross-sectional survey data on a convenience sample of 5,030 patients who rated their physicians on a web-based survey developed to collect detailed information on patient experiences with health care. The survey included self-reported information on wait times, time spent with doctor, and patient satisfaction.

Results

Longer waiting times were associated with lower patient satisfaction (p < 0.05), however, time spent with the physician was the strongest predictor of patient satisfaction. The decrement in satisfaction associated with long waiting times is substantially reduced with increased time spent with the physician (5 minutes or more). Importantly, the combination of long waiting time to see the doctor and having a short doctor visit is associated with very low overall patient satisfaction.

Conclusion

The time spent with the physician is a stronger predictor of patient satisfaction than is the time spent in the waiting room. These results suggest that shortening patient waiting times at the expense of time spent with the patient to improve patient satisfaction scores would be counter-productive.