Simple Ways to Make Waiting More Patient Friendly


Fam Pract Manag. 1998 Jan;5(1):72.

If you want to make your practice better for your patients, start by scrutinizing your scheduling practices. Patients want to know that you value their time as much as your own. Be realistic when scheduling the day's appointments. Make allowances for unexpected phone calls, consultations, etc. When you are running late, keep patients informed. Consider using one or more of the following strategies:

  • If patients cannot be taken into an exam room within minutes of their scheduled appointment, have the receptionist tell them when they arrive and give them an anticipated time. If you're running a half-hour late, they might be able to use the time to run another errand, or they might need to make arrangements at work or home. The receptionist should offer the use of a telephone in such instances. Remember that an explanation before a delay carries much more weight than an apology after the fact.

  • If there is a serious delay, the receptionist should call to warn the patient before he or she leaves home. You should have work and home numbers on file for such instances. Routine matters might be rescheduled, and patients who are not feeling well can stay at home a little longer, rather than waiting uncomfortably in your office.

  • If your practice has a significant number of walk-ins, consider investing in beepers. If the wait is likely to be lengthy, offer patients the use of a beeper so they can attend to other matters and return upon being paged.

Wanda Kelsey-Mendez is marketing manager for American Family Physician and Family Practice Management. She has consulted with numerous physician practices.


Copyright © 1998 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Contact for copyright questions and/or permission requests.

Want to use this article elsewhere? Get Permissions


Jan-Feb 2022

Access the latest issue
of FPM journal

Read the Issue

FPM E-Newsletter

Sign up to receive FPM's free, weekly e-newsletter, "Quick Tips & Insights."

Sign Up Now