Dial back the clock to pre-pandemic and you’ll recall the challenges and frustrations of overcrowded waiting rooms in hospitals and outpatient centers. COVID-19 turned that on its head. When coronavirus hit, healthcare facilities were forced to eliminate the waiting room experience to protect the health of staff and patients. Minimizing interactions and maximizing social distancing became the order of the day.
One solution that unfolded was the virtual waiting room. This, as part of a wider digital patient engagement solution, is proving extremely beneficial to patients, staff, and providers. So, could the pandemic perhaps have one silver lining?
The virtual waiting room has been so successful, it is hard to see why providers would revert to busy waiting areas again once the pandemic is over.
4 surprising benefits of the virtual waiting room explain why it looks set to stay.
1. Greater awareness and urgency around infection
Waiting rooms have always posed hidden risks in terms of infection. People mingling in enclosed spaces means infections can easily and unintentionally be passed on. Since healthcare has continued to push more treatments and procedures to the outpatient setting, many patients visiting healthcare facilities are also more likely to suffer from compromised immune systems, making them more susceptible.
Reception areas in healthcare clinics have long been considered bacterial and viral and incubators! Pre-pandemic, numerous studies highlighted the deficiencies in hand hygiene compliance in healthcare facilities. But a recent review and meta-analysis found that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the compliance of healthcare providers’ hand hygiene showed a great improvement.
The virtual waiting room solution offers a surprising benefit when it comes to infection control – for a start, patients aren’t in situ touching chairs, clipboards, magazines, and so on.
The pandemic has certainly given renewed focus to healthcare providers regarding infection control, while virtual waiting rooms mitigate patient and staff exposure to illness and disease, including highly contagious new variants of COVID-19.
2. A less stressful and more streamlined patient experience
No one wants to spend longer than necessary waiting to be seen – this applies to healthcare or in any other setting. According to patients, the waiting period is the worst part of a healthcare visit. Busy waiting areas can be particularly stressful for behavioral health patients.
A virtual waiting room solution that also enables patients to check wait times online, gives patients much greater control over when they arrive at a facility to be seen. Virtual communication allows staff to easily inform patients of their spot in line while patients wait safely in their vehicles (or wherever they choose). This minimizes the time a patient needs to spend inside an outpatient facility. A virtual queue enables patients to see how much longer they must wait so they aren’t left wondering.
PatientTrak’s patient flow solution, which includes a virtual waiting room, enables providers to keep patients digitally informed from appointment through to post-visit survey. Patients can receive pre-appointment questionnaires and any updates about COVID-19 safety protocols via HIPAA-compliant text messaging. It means patients are better informed as they receive information about what to expect at their visit before they arrive. The pre-visit communication can help to reduce appointment cancellations.
On the day of their appointment, patients can check in on arrival from outside the facility and receive a text alert when they are ready to be seen. The virtual waiting room solution offers more convenience and control to patients.
3. Improved patient confidentiality
In a traditional waiting room setup, it can be hard to maintain privacy and security. A UK study on the hidden risks of the waiting room notes, “The very fact that a patient has to attend in person necessitates at least a minor breach of confidentiality because there will almost always be other people in the waiting room observing the patient’s presence.”
The study also highlights the confidentiality conflict regarding observable symptoms: “If a patient’s particular illness has obvious and recognizable symptoms, being recognized can be a more serious breach of confidentiality because the other person now knows or suspects what condition the patient has.
“If an acquaintance, family member, or friend happens to be there, then the patient will be both identifiable and identified.”
This risk is considerably reduced with the use of a virtual waiting room.
4. Automated workflow
In healthcare, staff resources are precious, and traditional manual communication with patients is incredibly time-consuming. A patient flow solution establishes several automated workflow solutions, from appointment reminders and pre-appointment preparation to patient check-in.
This frees up staff to focus on other tasks, enabling them to deliver safe, high-quality care. A more efficient workflow also helps with employee engagement and reduces healthcare provider costs.
Why use PatientTrak’s virtual waiting room solution?
The waiting room has never been a particularly good experience for patients, so it is hardly surprising that virtual waiting rooms have broad appeal.
PatientTrak’s Text Messaging, Online Reservation, and Text to Sign-In solutions can be used to create a virtual waiting room and direct patients to sign in from outside the facility and inform them when they are ready to be seen.
The virtual waiting room is easy to set up, simple to use and patients don’t have to download an App (a requirement for many other similar solutions). Key features offered by PatientTrak include:
- Patient Sign-in
- Waiting room queuing
Patients can see where they are in line and only get called into the facility when the physician is ready for them. Staff get complete visibility over patient arrival. And PatientTrak’s solution integrates seamlessly with EHR.
Schedule a demo to see how you can improve patient safety and flow. Our virtual waiting room minimizes unnecessary contact and navigates patients seamlessly through the appointment check-in process.