To determine if patient satisfaction can be improved by changing patients' expectations of the clinic visit and by decreasing the total time spent in the clinic.
A prospective comparative analysis carried out in 4 phases.
An university-affiliated orthopedic outpatient clinic.
All patients seen in the orthopedic outpatient clinic were eligible. Phase 1 determined the total clinic time required by patient type; phase 2 assessed baseline satisfaction; phase 3 altered patients' expectations; and phase 4 altered patients' expectations and scheduled visits by patient type.
Patient satisfaction with time spent in the clinic.
Of 708 distributed questionnaires, 622 (88%) were completed (547 totally complete, 75 partially complete). Total time spent in the clinic decreased across phases 2, 3 and 4 (mean 99.2, 94.7 and 85.2 minutes, respectively, but was significantly different only between phases 3 and 4; p = 0.05, Duncan's multiple range test). The percentage of patients who rated their waiting time as "excellent" increased across phases 2, 3 and 4 (14.6%, 18.8% and 31.1%, respectively; p = 0.0004, chi 2 test).
Patient satisfaction can be improved by altering patient expectations and by decreasing the total time spent in clinic.