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Survey: Wait Times Down, Patient Portal Use Up at Medical Practices

September 1, 2017
by Heather Landi
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U.S. medical practices report that wait times have improved by five minutes from last year, down to an average of 20 minutes total between the waiting area and the exam room. For hospital-owned practices specifically, that number goes down to an average of 17 minutes, according to a survey from the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA).

MGMA released its 2017 MGMA DataDive Practice Operations Survey this week which provides insights into practice operations and patient satisfaction, including average office wait times, scheduling availability and use of patient portals. MGMA’s Practice Operations Survey is based on comparative data of more than 1,200 organizations.

The survey found that physician-owned practices are able to see patients sooner than hospital-owned practices. Based on the third next available appointment slot for established patients, physician-owned practices can see patients up to two days sooner (within three days) than hospital-owned practices (five days).

Multispecialty practices reported the slowest speed to answer incoming calls (49 seconds), with surgical specialties reporting the quickest time at 13.5 seconds to answer an inbound call.

Looking at patient portal usage, 30 percent of patients who visit hospital-owned practices use the portal, whereas physician-owned practices see less usage (10-15 percent). Of those patients at hospital-owned practices, there is 50 percent more utilization than in physician-owned practices.

Amongst specialties, primary care practices report the highest percentage use for patient portal use compared to other specialties (35 percent).

Portals allow patients to access test results, view personal health records, fill out forms in advance of appointments, facilitate doctor and patient communication, schedule appointments, pay bills and house important medical information

Of the functions of patient portals, accessing test results was the most popular (29 percent), with bill payments, communicating with providers and medical staff, downloading or transmitting medical records and scheduling appointments coming in closely behind (all at 28 percent).

The survey also looked at patient satisfaction. Nearly three fourths of practices (74 percent) report conducting patient satisfaction surveys after every patient visit, with only three percent of practices stating they never conduct patient surveys.

And, the survey looked at billing at medical practices. Billers at practices report posting an average of 132 claims per day, with less than 5 percent of claims being denied on first submission.

“Medical practices face a variety of challenges today, and among the most addressable are practice operations which tend to separate top performing practices from the rest,” Halee Fischer-Wright, M.D., president and chief executive officer at MGMA, said. “With this survey, we aim to glean insights that will enable practices to improve efficiencies and better serve their patients by making processes as smooth as possible.”


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