Perceptions of Appointment Time and Associations with Patient Arrival and Reminder System Preferences

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Medicine and Health Sciences


Context: Patient reminder notifications have been widely utilized in the healthcare setting for several decades. Some clinics have even begun implementing “arrival time” notifications in lieu of the term “appointment time” in an effort to improve patient punctuality. There is little research on how these oft-used terms and practices are perceived by patients. Objective: The goal of this study was to identify patient perceptions of key event terminology, and the impact of these perceptions upon reminder system preferences. Design: We designed a paper-based survey to investigate patient perceptions of “appointment time” and preferences regarding proposed implementation of a reminder system in which an “arrival time” was provided instead of an “appointment time”. Setting: IU Health Methodist Family Medicine Center is an urban, academic primary care clinic located in Indianapolis. Survey responses were collected from 524 patients over 10 clinic days. Methods: The survey was piloted with several patients to ensure that the greater population could understand each question. Statistical methods included frequency and regression analyses. Results: The perception of the term “appointment time” varied among patients--50% interpreted it as being the time at which to enter the clinic; 14% believed it to be the time when the doctor enters the exam room. The proposal of a clinic implementing an “arrival time” reminder received significant satisfaction scores among the patient population that initially perceived “appointment time” as being earlier in the visit process (p = 0.02). Qualitative analyses of psychosocial and behavioral associations are in progress. Conclusions: There is lack of a standard definition for the term “appointment time” in the healthcare setting; perception of the term varies widely among patients. The relationship between patient perceptions of key events, punctuality, and clinic flow should be further explored before altering current reminder practices.


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