Missing Piece Blog

Handling an ABA Waitlist

It’s estimated that, as of 2023, there are over 33,600 ABA therapists employed in the US. This number sounds high, but when you consider that one in every 44 American children is diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), it’s easy to understand why the majority of ABA therapy practices have a waitlist. 

As a provider, you undoubtedly want to help as many patients and families as you can, but there are only so many hours in a day. You may be wondering how to manage a waitlist effectively and with compassion. Read on for our expert advice on finding that balance.

What is a patient or client waitlist?

A patient or client waitlist is essentially a managed list that comprises individuals requiring ABA services whom your practice is unable to immediately accommodate due to capacity constraints. This scenario often arises from a high demand for ABA services coupled with scarce resources or limited personnel to deliver timely interventions. 

The waitlist allows healthcare providers to organize potential patients by various criteria, such as urgency of need, date of request, or specific behavioral challenges, ensuring that services are allocated efficiently and equitably as resources become available. Effectively managing this list is crucial for providing timely care to those in need and maintaining the quality of service across all clients.

One survey revealed that approximately 75% of caregivers experienced delays in accessing ABA services due to waitlists, with an average wait time of 5.5 months. Many of these caregivers reported that their child’s behavior deteriorated the longer they remained on a waitlist.

Effective ABA patient waitlist management

In many cases, ABA waitlists are inevitable. Even so, implementing strategic measures to optimize ABA waitlist management can significantly enhance care accessibility and potentially boost your practice’s income. These crucial steps include maintaining transparent and continuous communication with families on the waitlist, conducting frequent analysis of waitlist data to gain accurate insights into expected wait times, and adopting specialized practice management software to streamline waitlist operations. These actions can effectively enhance the efficiency of your waitlist management, ensuring high satisfaction levels among waiting families.

Communicate upfront

Communicate to prospective clients that there is a waitlist and inform them how long it might take for them or their children to receive the therapy they need from your practice. Provide a specific time range, such as three to six months. Inform individuals when they should contact you again to see if waitlist times have improved. And, where possible, avoid making hard promises.

Provide prospective clients with helpful advice

There are various “best practices” that parents seeking out ABA therapy for their children can follow. For example, you could encourage them to put their names down on more than one waitlist and to regularly call in or email to ask for an update on their status regarding your waitlist. 

Knowing how critical it is for a child to receive treatment from as early an age as possible, it’s also extremely helpful to provide prospective parents with resources that they can use while they wait to receive support from an ABA therapist. You could make a significant difference by supplying information regarding relevant online training, workshops, and courses, as well as connections to local support groups.

Establish a referral system

Work to identify one or two other providers you know who provide similar services and who you feel confident vouching for. Offering an alternative option for your prospective patients may help them receive care sooner — even if you cannot provide it yourself. Be sure to vet alternative resources, however, to find out the types of services they offer and their availability. 

Consider building a mutually beneficial relationship with these providers and keeping contact regular to establish availability. Obviously, it won’t be helpful to refer prospective patients to another provider whose waitlist is just as long as yours. 

Oversee waitlist times to ensure accuracy

Monitor waitlists to determine when times may shorten. In some situations, you may find that patients no longer need or want care, which may open the door for others. Some providers choose to invest in software to manage waitlists and more accurately predict waitlist times. This type of software collects data regarding the fade-out rate, staff availability changes, and provider capacity. Alternatively, you may want to consider hiring a waitlist manager.

Also, be sure to get an idea of what it may take to help eliminate the list completely. It may be worthwhile to think about hiring a new therapist or two and growing your practice. As long as finances allow, doing so could benefit both your business and the individuals currently on your waitlist.

Look into telehealth to increase capacity

It’s a good idea to investigate offering telehealth ABA services in conjunction with in-person sessions if you find that late arrivals or running over time are factors that impact your capacity as an ABA therapy provider. If you wish to take on more patients and shorten your waitlist, telehealth ABA services can also be conducted in addition to regular therapy hours, such as on weekends or in the early mornings or evenings.

Work to streamline operations to meet patient needs

The primary objective is to optimize your practice’s operations to accommodate the needs of a larger patient base. Achieving this often involves delegating routine or administrative responsibilities to free up more time for patient care. By diminishing the workload of these non-clinical tasks, ABA providers can dedicate a greater portion of their day to delivering direct care. 

Missing Piece is designed to support ABA service providers in this regard, offering a suite of services aimed at alleviating the administrative load. Our solutions allow healthcare professionals to focus more on what they do best – providing top-notch care to their clients.

Discover how outsourcing billing, paperwork, and other administrative tasks can benefit your practice. Contact us to learn more.


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