You enter a doctor’s waiting room and the ambience is one of contained frustration.
People in the space are patients. They are likely suffering from acute discomfort. Some of them have children in tow who aren’t the most obedient and cooperative partners. The sense of dread around the possible diagnosis is palpable. Is the lump malignant? Am I going to require expert intervention? Is my insurance ripping me off with the steep co-pay?
Most importantly those who emerge from the actual chamber are overwhelmed by questions and underwhelmed by the care they have received. Heather N Sherwin and her peers conducted extensive research and found that most patients feel rushed and unattended after a visit to the doctor. The physician has at best 20 minutes in hand and because of scattered medical records most of that slot is spent analysing symptoms.
30 Minutes of Wasted Opportunity:
Those who want to avail of the advice of a general physician generally spend at least half an hour in the waiting room.
With the infrastructure groaning under the weight of the sudden spike in patient numbers, these 30 minutes might stretch into more.
Prompt medical assistance is no longer a reality in the US.
Every physician with a waiting room needs to put himself in the patient’s shoes and empathize with the bleakness of the experience.
This is the only way to identify what is broken and put effective solutions in place.
Right now people view these 30 minutes as an impediment to care. The call of the day is to flip this perspective and ensure that the idle time is actually pleasant or productive.
Technologies That can Make Your Waiting Room a Hit:
- Wi-Fi. This one is almost a no-brainer. Don’t just provide a charging port for the smart devices of your patients. Go the extra mile and also offer Free Public Wi-Fi to help them spend the minutes (or even the hours) Facebook hopping instead of worrying about the doctor’s pronouncement or fussing around the children.
People have now accepted internet as an integral part of their lives. And disconnecting from it is no longer a natural state of being. The waiting room is already alien territory. And it is synonymous with ill-health. Wi-Fi access eases the situation. Patients can visit the sites and use the applications that they are hooked to. This brings a semblance of “normalcy” to the waiting room.
Patients can also continue to work on personal and professional assignments improving productivity.
In short pre-occupied people are less jittery, they are likely to have fewer complaints with longer wait times and also step into the chamber in a better mood and this aids diagnosis.
Challenge: HIPAA compliance is a challenge with Wi-Fi implementation. The best way to safeguard sensitive medical information is to invest in a separate physical network to support the Wi-Fi instead of using the infrastructure of the business set-up.
- Virtual Reality (VR). VR is no longer just a party trick or an arcade favorite. Waiting rooms are using this technology to handle the most pressing concern of patients – the engagement of children who might be visiting with their parents or registering as patients in the instance of pediatricians.
Toddlers and young children are often the ones who grow the most fidgety in waiting rooms. They are incapable of understanding why they have to stay restricted in a strange space for long durations of time. They can’t even wander around because parents are wary of hygiene and the presence of possible contagion.
Under such circumstances children resort to tantrums. They are hungry and irritated. The shouting bothers those who share the waiting room with them. And parents are unnecessarily hassled.
VR based games that are:
(ii) Free of props and thus the danger of cuts and scrapes
(iii) Often team based
(iv) Customizable and programmable
Not only offer children with an alternative to slumping and sulking, they even encourage little ones to bond with others their age and learn new health facts through the engagement.
The best part about Virtual Reality offerings is the fact that new content is extremely affordable and children who have short attention spans can be kept engrossed with variety.
Challenge: VR based games might call for supervision and clinics need to employ personnel to oversee the interactions between kids. However a “no props” solution requires minimal maintenance and even the waiting room manager (WRM) can take care of the children.
- The Cloud. The cloud is also shaping the way healthcare is provided and influencing waiting room times. Some clinics have already started adopting an integrated telemedicine portal for archiving records and allowing patients to avail of remote support. This is beneficial in two key ways:
(i) The approach of the cloud repository allows doctors to peruse and stay updated of the entire medical history of a patient. This means that the 20 odd minutes can be used to diagnose the individual, answer questions and provide that robust care that is so desired. With decisions being taken faster, the waiting room queues move swiftly ultimately cutting down the idle time.
(ii) A waiting room has patients. And it also has a fair number of people looking to report progress or just get a medicine changed. Thanks to cloud technology and telemedicine support, such individuals no longer need to crowd the waiting rooms. They can upload documents to the system or Skype (Face-Time) physicians to resolve minor issues.
Challenge: The main hiccup with the Cloud is awareness. Patients need to adopt the concept of telemedicine and digital, consolidated records en mass for the advantages to become evident.
A waiting rooms can become a hit only if they are mostly empty, signifying expedited delivery of care or silent because of productively engaged patients.
Some companies like Epion Health even provide “clinic supplied” tablets to the people in waiting rooms to dispense educational content and contribute to both causes.
All in all technologies are being successfully leveraged by doctors and their staff members to bring about a positive shift in the way waiting rooms work. This is a great sign for the coming years.