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