Background Non-attendance and late arrivals diminish patient flow in outpatient clinics. On the other hand, patient earliness may also be undesirable. Physicians often experience that older patients are more punctual than younger patients, and often they come excessively early. The aim of this study was to determine whether an association between age and outpatient clinic arrival time could be established or not, i.e. to find out if it is a myth or a reality. Methods Prospective descriptive study performed at a neurological outpatient clinic. Data were collected from all scheduled appointments during an eight-week period. Variables included were age, gender, appointment time, arrival time, no-shows, appointment type, need for assistance and if it was an early or late appointment. Outcomes were unpunctuality (early and late arrivals) and non-attendance. Results Of 1353 appointments, non-attendance rate was 9.5 and 5.1% were late arrivals. Median age increased with increased patient earliness (p < 0.001). Younger age (p = 0.007) and new referrals (p = 0.025) were associated with non-attendance. Conclusions The intuition of an association between age and outpatient clinic arrival time was confirmed, thus it is a reality that older patients attend their appointments more frequently and have better punctuality than younger adults. This age effect in outpatient clinics should be considered when developing future simulation models and intervention studies.
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