How Virtual Waiting Rooms Help Patient Satisfaction & Safety

Virtual Waiting Rooms

Traditional waiting rooms complicate patient visits in two important ways:

  1. They increase patient discomfort, emphasizing the waiting process.
  2. They are a melting pot for germs and bacteria, increasing risk of exposure to infection.

A virtual waiting room, on the other hand, minimizes discomfort while protecting patients and staff by reducing their risk of exposure to illness, benefits brought to the forefront during COVID-19. Possible side effects of a virtual waiting room include more pleasant patient encounters, increased provider and patient satisfaction, and improved health outcomes.

May 2020, 90% of patients globally reported that care quality during surges in virtual care was as good or better than care quality prior to COVID-19.

What is a virtual waiting room?

If you’ve been out to eat at a restaurant in the past few years, even pre-pandemic, you may have noticed a change in the experience of waiting for a table. Rather than asking you to stay within earshot while you wait, today’s hostess will likely request your cell phone number and offer to text you when your table is ready.

The text-to-table process makes the entire experience feel more personal, comfortable, and customer-centric. That’s because waiting is less unpleasant when you are free to do what you want—where you want—until the moment your turn arrives. Now, the same experience has become essential in healthcare to minimize patient discomfort and protect public safety with social distancing.

A virtual waiting room (aka mobile waiting room, zero-contact waiting room, or curbside check-in) is a service that allows patients to check in using their mobile phone and notifies them through a direct text message when it is their turn to be seen by the doctor.

The Purpose of a Virtual Waiting Room in Healthcare

An ideal virtual waiting room can serve two purposes:

  1. Giving in-person patients the freedom to wait for their turn privately in their car—or wherever they choose—rather than confining them to a stuffy, crowded waiting room alongside new germs and potential infections.
  2. Facilitating a smooth check-in process for telehealth visits.

Both purposes improve the patient experience and encourage healthy practices.

Risks of Traditional Waiting Rooms

31% of patients say they are uncomfortable visiting a doctor’s office and 42% are uncomfortable visiting a hospital.

Traditional waiting rooms that require patients to touch shared surfaces and breathe shared air are beyond uncomfortable—they can be unsafe. Virtual waiting rooms enable social distancing to support a better patient experience and better outcomes.

Another risk tied to traditional waiting rooms involves staff and patient satisfaction. What if your patients and staff begin to correlate your organization with frustrating environmental factors beyond your control? A virtual waiting room helps you prevent your healthcare organization from being associated with pesky sounds, smells, people, and boredom that can easily be avoided.

As demand rises for a safer, more comfortable healthcare experience, virtual waiting rooms are the key to getting patients in the door while increasing their odds of leaving satisfied.

How can virtual waiting rooms apply to video visits?

Video visits are another great way to prevent unnecessary exposure to illness. Organizations looking to implement both video visits and a virtual waiting room should talk to their vendors about integration. Ideally, the same virtual solution used to help manage in-person patient visits can be adapted to also queue up video appointments, allowing providers and patients to indicate when they are ready.

What’s the best way to launch a virtual waiting room?

In short, work with what you’ve got. If you have a patient engagement solution that can also facilitate a virtual waiting room and video visits, talk to your vendor about the next steps for launching your virtual waiting room.

If you do not have a solution for two-way texting or video visits with patients, or if you are looking for a replacement/upgrade to your current system, focus on finding a solution that can do the following:

  • Automated Appointment Reminders to Patients
  • Pre-Appointment and Pre-Arrival Instructions to Patients
  • Patient Arrival Notification via Simple Text
  • Entry Notification and Office Navigation Guidance
  • HIPAA-Compliant Video Connection
  • Scheduled and On-the-Fly Video Visits
  • Connect Without Requiring App Downloads or Passwords
  • Caller ID Protection for Providers
  • 24/7 Connection

Here’s a streamlined patient experience with an organization using all of the above capabilities:

Virtual Waiting Room Patient Journey

Key Benefits of a Virtual Waiting Room

Virtual waiting rooms are extremely beneficial to patients, staff, and organizations that implement them, especially when they are integrated with other patient engagement solutions, such as video visits and HIPAA-compliant messaging.

Some of the top benefits include:

  • Increased Patient Satisfaction
  • Patient Safety and Protection
  • Reduced Frustration for Patients and Staff
  • Efficient Patient Intake
  • Reduced No-Shows

Improve Patient Outcomes With Better Engagement

Explore new ways to communicate most effectively with your patients with our white paper, Engaging Patients and Their Family Members – Texting to Support Value-Based Care and Better Outcomes.

Sources:

  1. Virtual care here to stay, PharmaTimes, Brad Michel, Jul. 21, 2020: pharmatimes.com/web_exclusives/Virtual_care_here_to_stay_1345204
  1. Breakdown of Changes in Consumers’ Health Care Behavior During COVID-19—INFOGRAPHIC, Alliance of Community Health Plans (ACHP), May 21, 2020: achp.org/research-breakdown-of-changes-in-consumers-health-care-behavior-during-covid-19

Telmediq Scores Best in KLAS: Named Clinical Communications Category Leader for Fourth Year in a Row

KLAS AwardIt was announced today that PerfectServe’s Telmediq solution received the coveted 2021 Best in KLAS award for the Clinical Communications segment. Telmediq finished with a score of 92.2, which is more than four points above the average Clinical Communication vendor score of 87.9.

First and foremost, we have to thank our customers for their continued partnership. The last 12 months have been endlessly challenging for healthcare organizations, and it’s been a pleasure working with so many of them to support their efforts responding to a public health crisis. We’re honored to be part of the incredible work so many frontline healthcare workers do every day, and customers will continue to be at the center of every decision we make.

This also marks Telmediq’s fourth consecutive year as the category leader for the Clinical Communications segment, and it reflects countless hours of hard work and dedication by our entire team, from support to product to R&D and beyond. Of particular note, three of the wins have come since PerfectServe’s acquisition of Telmediq in early 2019. Mergers and acquisitions frequently bring concerns about instability for customers, but with PerfectServe’s strong leadership team, we’re proud to say that the company’s expanded resources and talented employees have helped us stay laser focused on delivering the best results for customers.

It’s true that awards are always validating, but recognition from KLAS stands apart because it directly reflects the voice of our customers. KLAS checks in with more than 30,000 healthcare professionals every year as part of their surveying process, so if a product is lacking, they’re going to hear about it firsthand. For that reason, we celebrate this award as proof of successful partnerships with the incredible healthcare organizations we’re fortunate to call customers.

The word “partner” has been uttered in many a PerfectServe Zoom meeting over the last 12 months as we have considered the best ways to support customers through the COVID-19 pandemic. These discussions resulted in an offer of free software and services in the initial stages of the outbreak, and customer feedback about the need for remote patient engagement led us to reprioritize our product roadmap to rapidly develop and launch a new Patient & Family Communication solution that supports video visits, real-time family text updates, and a virtual waiting room capability. Agility and customer service were the themes of 2020.

As we build on the momentum of this humbling recognition and think about what’s ahead for 2021, the words of PerfectServe CEO Guillaume Castel from his interview with HIStalk in September ring truer than ever:

  • All 350 of us at PerfectServe wake up in the morning with a desire to solve bigger problems for our clients and their patients. We start with the end in mind. We are excited about the progress that we have made with our clients and the progress that they are making with their patients.”
  • The journey is what we think of as unified communications. It crosses boundaries and it cannot be an afterthought. It needs to be core to the mission of the company that commits to delivering it. Similarly, workflow enhancements can be achieved by combining technology and innovation with experience and know-how, not just releasing tools and demanding that a clinician use them.”
  • “We spent a great deal of time thoughtfully integrating the various capabilities and thinking about how we could make the sum of the parts bigger than what they were. What we have now is a cross continuum way of enabling communications at scale for the largest health systems in the United States.”

Guillaume’s statements aren’t just idle talk, either. KLAS commentary for Telmediq consistently highlights the professionalism of our team, their willingness to listen to—and take action based on—customer feedback, and how well the platform works. This December 2020 testimony from one organization’s CMIO is a prime example:

  • “Telmediq’s support for us is beyond compare. We are interfacing their product with another vendor’s system, and it is not an easy thing to pass that information back and forth. However, Telmediq has always been willing to invest the time from their side to help our people do that integration. Telmediq is very willing to consider ideas. If we say that we want an improvement to the product, they will actually take that back to their developers, and some version down the road will have that change in it. Telmediq is very responsive to their clients in terms of optimizing the product and doing product development to make it work better.”

More health systems than ever are relying on clinical communication & collaboration (CC&C) systems to coordinate care, and the trend is likely to accelerate in coming years. Though a lot has changed at PerfectServe in the last few years, our dedication to customers and drive to innovate have not wavered in the slightest. With our class-leading (and KLAS-leading!) clinical communication system supplemented by advanced provider scheduling and patient communication capabilities, PerfectServe is uniquely positioned to help health systems improve outcomes for patients—both now and far into the future—by delivering the right information to the right person at the right time for any given situation.

Check back next year around this time to see if we’re holding true to our commitment by going five-for-five with KLAS. For now, we’re going to get back to work.

Reserve a demo with an innovative partner rated Best in KLAS for Clinical Communications after four consecutive years leading the category.

 

Improve Patient Experience Before, During, and After Care

Improve Patient ExperienceWhen it comes to communicating with patients, nothing beats the immediate connection of text messages. While email and phone calls are increasingly ignored, 90% of text messages are read within three minutes.1

Let’s explore some opportunities to engage with patients via text message throughout their healthcare journey to reduce the cost of outreach and improve the patient experience.

Changing Patient Expectations

The healthcare industry has shifted focus from volume to value, working on the “Triple Aim” of enhancing patient experience (including health and satisfaction), improving the health of populations, and reducing costs.2 Patient satisfaction has become linked to reimbursement at a time when patient expectations for the healthcare experience continue to evolve.

Patients, financially responsible for a sizeable share of their care, are now approaching healthcare encounters with consumer expectations. They expect convenience, personalization, and access to care anytime from anywhere.

Healthcare organizations need new ways to keep patients engaged in their care and to continually assess patient satisfaction. Unfortunately, improving health system performance toward Triple Aim results has led to worrying rates of clinical burnout.

With technology often cited as one of the leading causes of burnout, organizations are now focusing on the “Quadruple Aim,” which includes provider experience and satisfaction.3 The Quadruple Aim recognizes the importance of usability, effective care processes, and improved clinical workflows to achieve Triple Aim results.

Below are some strategies designed with the Quadruple Aim in mind, reducing administrative burden with patient, population, and diagnostic-specific automations to engage with patients before, during, and after care.

Before Care

How a patient experiences their healthcare encounter begins before the patient even steps through your door. From your website and scheduling process to visit preparation and patient intake, patients are looking for a modern, seamless, and informative experience.

Healthcare organizations looking to transform the patient experience should begin by engaging with patients before their scheduled appointments:

  • Care Preparation Instructions – Use procedure-specific pathways to send reminders to start pre-operative instructions.
  • Appointment Reminders – Text patients reminders of dates, times, and locations of upcoming visits, along with detailed wayfinding instructions.
  • Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) Support – Leverage SDOH data to assist patients through barriers, such as sharing coupons for transportation to reduce no-shows. Hennepin Health recently partnered with Lyft to target patients with a history of clinic no-shows, offering them access to a corporate Lyft account to get to their appointments. At the end of a 12-month trial period, no-show rates decreased an aggregate 27%, clinic revenue increased by $270,000, and ROI was 297%.4
  • Patient Intake – Send patients a link to electronic forms to streamline check-in.
  • Real-Time Scheduling Updates – Send status updates to patients to help re-align arrival times when there are scheduling delays.

During Care

The factors that influence a patient’s experience can vary widely based on their reason and length of stay. However, we can follow the broad strokes of the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey to better identify a patient’s perspective on their care experience.

The 18 substantive questions included in the survey focus primarily on communication with doctors, nurses, and staff during care and at the critical point of discharge. Other questions focus mainly on environmental factors such as cleanliness and sound level.5

From enabling fast, efficient communication between clinicians, patients, and family members to facilitating a more comfortable, safe, and convenient care environment, mobile messaging can greatly improve the patient experience during care.

Video Visits

Texting with patients is a quick and easy gateway into scheduled and/or on-demand video visits. PerfectServe’s solution, for example, enables patients to transition from text message to browser-based video visit with the simple touch of a link—no need to download an app or set up a password.

Virtual Waiting Room

A virtual waiting room uses text messages to maintain a safe and comfortable connection with patients during in-person visits by streamlining check-in to help minimize germ exposure and discomfort.

Patient Family Updates

Family members play a crucial role in supporting patients and encouraging them to follow care plans before, during, and after their stay at the hospital. Healthcare organizations are now prioritizing patient families as part of the patient experience. Family members feel more comfortable leaving the waiting room knowing they will receive updates on patient status and return time.

With PerfectServe, care team members can update approved patient family members via secure video, voice, and/or text message. Even a family member who calls into the main hospital call center can quickly get a message to the correct on-call nurse, who can easily respond with one click, masking their personal caller ID.

Read our white paper for more examples of how the right solution can simplify, automate, and strengthen patient and family member encounters.

Integrate Nurse Call, Alert, and Alarm Notifications

Centralize communication across multiple systems onto a single platform to simplify clinical workflow while eliminating extraneous noise. With a solution like PerfectServe’s Clinical Communication & Collaboration (CC&C), nurses can receive alerts on their mobile devices and choose to accept, escalate for assistance, or call back to speak directly with patients.

If a patient pushes the call button for a nonurgent or nonclinical request (such as a water request), the notification can automatically route to a Patient Care Technician, reducing nurse interruptions during care. Patients benefit from reduced noise and faster response times—critical factors in HCAHPS scores.

After Care

Preventable hospital readmissions continue to be top-of-mind, thanks largely to Medicare’s Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP) and readmission penalties. HRRP is the “value-based purchasing program that encourages hospitals to improve communication and care coordination to better engage patients and caregivers in discharge plans and, in turn, reduce avoidable readmissions.”6

According to a study published in BMJ Quality & Safety, patients reporting high satisfaction and good provider communication were less likely to be readmitted.7 Decreasing preventable readmissions requires that patients understand and adhere to their care plan, that pain is managed, and that follow-up care is scheduled and attended in less than two weeks.8

Post-Discharge Assessments

Leading hospitals are applying a text-first strategy to monitor treatment, assess pain, and send care plan reminders (such prescription refill reminders). Care teams can use text messages to deliver questions to patients one at a time or all at once with a simple link to a secure web survey.

Frequently checking in both increases patient satisfaction and allows clinicians to escalate concerning responses to secure chat or phone call if needed. PerfectServe’s solution, for example, lets users share a secure chat link that allows patients to discuss more detailed and personal health information.

Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital worked with PerfectServe to launch a text-first follow-up program that included a series of customized questions to assess a patient’s risk for readmission. 70% of questions sent via text message received a response from patients. PerfectServe’s dashboard allowed Park Nicollet to collect and analyze every patient response and nonresponse, segmenting the patient population into risk categories and automatically flagging patients that need immediate follow-up.

Park Nicollet’s results showed that patients who received and responded to text messages were 32% less likely to readmit than those solely contacted by phone (results are risk adjusted to account for the relative complexity of each patient’s conditions).

Patient Satisfaction Surveys

While CMS’ HCAHPS survey has incentivized improvements in patient experience, the response rate from patients has been on the decline.9 Declining response rates could be tied to patients’ perception of the survey’s effectiveness. HCAHPS surveys are administered 2 to 42 days after discharge and often cannot yield the timely data hospitals need to quickly address patient issues.

Given the high impact HCAHPS results have on a hospital’s financial performance, it’s important to seize opportunities to survey patients before the CMS in order to preemptively mitigate issues and improve patient satisfaction. For patient satisfaction surveys to be actionable, they need to be easy and customizable, targeting specific patient populations and encouraging meaningful dialogue.

Deploying surveys via text message is a cost-effective approach to obtaining timely patient insights. With solutions like PerfectServe’s Patient & Family Communication (PFC), surveys can be automatically triggered after healthcare encounters while the experience is fresh on the patient’s mind. Patients who indicate dissatisfaction become a service recovery opportunity. Contacting them to show concern and learn more can inform systemic improvement and change the patient’s impression of the organization.

Deliver an Exceptional Experience

PerfectServe allows hospitals to reach patients and their family members in real time before, during, and after care to better support, assess, and improve the patient experience. Book a demo with a clinical communication specialist to see how we can help you deliver an exceptional patient experience.

Book a Demo

 

Resources:
1. SMS vs Email and Apps: Customer engagement infograph, VoiceSage, Jun. 14, 2018: voicesage.com/blog/sms-compared-to-email-infograph
2. IHI Triple Aim Initiative, Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI): ihi.org/Engage/Initiatives/TripleAim
3. From Triple to Quadruple Aim: Care of the Patient Requires Care of the Provider, The Annals of Family Medicine, T. Bodenheimer, C. Sinsky, Nov. 2014: annfammed.org/content/12/6/573.full
4. Do Rideshare Tools Reduce Transport Barriers, Patient No-Shows?, Xtelligent Healthcare Media, Patient Engagement HIT, S. Heath, Jul. 24, 2018: patientengagementhit.com/news/do-rideshare-tools-reduce-transport-barriers-patient-no-shows
5. The HCAHPS Survey – Frequently Asked Questions, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS): cms.gov/Medicare/Quality-Initiatives-Patient-Assessment-Instruments/HospitalQualityInits/Downloads/HospitalHCAHPSFactSheet201007.pdf
6. Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP), Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS): cms.gov/Medicare/Medicare-Fee-for-Service-Payment/AcuteInpatientPPS/Readmissions-Reduction-Program
7. The association between patient experience factors and likelihood of 30-day readmission: a prospective cohort study, BMJ Quality & Safety, J. Carter et al., 2018: qualitysafety.bmj.com/content/27/9/683
8. Timeliness of Outpatient Follow-up: An Evidence-Based Approach for Planning After Hospital Discharge, The Annals of Family Medicine, C. Jackson, PhD, et al., Mar. 2015: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4369604
9. HCAHPS Survey Non-Response Bias Impacts Scores, Practice Improvement, Xtelligent Healthcare Media, Patient Engagement HIT, S. Heath, May 1, 2019: patientengagementhit.com/news/hcahps-survey-non-response-bias-impacts-scores-practice-improvement