It’s time that hospital waiting rooms embraced a few simple digital interventions that change the whole customer journey.
For all of the dramatic and life-changing improvements that the digital revolution has brought to medicine and wellness, it’s still surprising how little has changed when it comes to visiting a clinic or hospital in person.
The medical waiting room - with all its frustration, worry, and boredom - is essentially the same as it's ever been. Slow-moving, a little chaotic, boring, with little to ease the anxiety that comes along with most medical matters. But new technologies are emerging that promise to disrupt the outdated system of checking in at a clinic and then sitting around waiting for your name to be called.
As a result of that kind of inconvenience, far too many people postpone visiting the doctor and in some cases leave successful medical intervention until it’s too late.
ACF Technologies empowers individuals to manage their own time and optimize the queuing process with queue management software called Q-Flow that delivers next-generation customer experience and simple, effective queue management solutions.
“We don’t know what we would do without it,” says a spokesperson for Finger Lakes Health. “Because of Q-Flow, we have made improvements to ensure that patient throughput and Customer Service standards are met on a consistent basis”.
The Problem of Perceived Wait Time
It’s not the actual wait time that people experience in a queue that’s the problem, it’s the perceived wait time. How long it feels when you’re waiting anxiously often has very little to do with how long it takes.
For example, when people see a long queue snaking away in front of them, even if it’s moving, or a crowded doctor’s office they overestimate how long this is going to take.
Then one of two things happen; either they’re going to leave and take their business elsewhere, or they’re going to get in the queue and wait while their mood gets darker and darker, before taking out their frustration on the poor receptionist who has the misfortune of dealing with them.
Managing perceived wait time is a critically important aspect of queue management.
Read how reducing outpatient waiting times at Nottingham University Hospital led to a drop in patient abandonment rates.
Here are 8 ways that technology can transform the waiting game. Let’s take a look at a few effective ways to reduce patient wait times:
1. Gather Patient Data Before Check-in
One of the most tedious aspects of any visit to the hospital or doctor’s office is the filling in of paper-based forms. You should be able to use technology or allocate a staff member to gather a lot of vital information online before the scheduled appointment happens, which dramatically reduces wait times.
2. Implement Self-service Check-in & Verification
There’s no longer a need for a patient to show up in front of a receptionist and announce their arrival. Virtual check-in via an automated kiosk or personal mobile device allows the patient to wait in the car or in a coffee shop while still monitoring their place in the queue. That should be coupled with customer verification software that adds an additional layer of security to the system by verifying the identity of the person checking in.
3. Deploy Wait Time Alerts
What patients want more than anything is to be informed of progress. Waiting is bad enough, but not knowing how long you are going to be in a queue causes frustration. By managing customer expectations via notifications, you can vastly improve the queueing experience for them.
4. Embrace Telehealth Solutions
Not every doctor’s appointment needs to happen in person. In fact, many of the services that patients are looking for can be delivered remotely, using a system like Assistant Anywhere which empowers patients to have their consultation or appointment remotely through video via mobile and web apps. It stands to reason that the fewer people there are in the waiting room, the shorter the wait time will be.
5. Run Customer Tracking
One of the most useful features of a centralized, technology-driven queueing system is the level of detailed insights and analytics that the system provides. You get detailed reports about wait times and service times, about footfall in different locations, about what times of day are quietest, etc. It’s the kind of real-time information that is useful for a business looking to streamline the queueing process.
6. Handling No Shows and Late Arrivals
The best queue management software puts the power of time management back in the hands of the consumers. Let people book the times that suit them, and adjust their appointments as well if they need to. Use
notifications & secure messaging to make sure they stay on track and so that they know how much longer they have before their appointment. Do you have a policy for late arrivals? If not, then now’s the time to create one.
7. Integrating Data Sources to Improve User Experience
Our queue management systems have the ability to connect to other data sources and software running on your customers mobile devices and deliver more integrated useful solutions. For example, when a patient schedules an appointment at a busy time, Q-Flow can automatically suggest a nearby facility with shorter wait times. Or when Q-Flow notices that traffic is heavy thanks to integration with Google Maps, it advises you to leave early for your appointment. The technology exists today to deliver these kinds of time-management breakthroughs that change your interaction with your care providers.
8. Benefit from Multiple Cost Savings
Queue management doesn’t only improve the customer experience and reduce the risk of exposure to illness but it also saves you money at the same time. Better automation and easy-to-use systems mean that your medical practice should require fewer staff members on duty to manage the flow of people, which translates to lower overhead costs and long-term savings.
When patients are unhappy with the service they are getting, they are going to take action and you’ll feel it in your bottom line. A report on the Cardiovascular Business website stated that “Thirty percent of surveyed patients reported they’ve walked out of an appointment due to a long wait, while 20 percent said they’ve changed doctors because of wait times.” Those kinds of numbers are significant for any hospital, pharmacy, clinic, or medical practitioner and prove that the problem does need to be addressed.
Implementing a Mobile Queue Solution
Q-Flow has been designed to deliver seamless omnichannel appointment scheduling solutions for organizations of all types and sizes.
The core appointment booking module lets you optimize the on-site customer experience using smart appointment management solutions. It allows visitors to check in from afar through their mobile devices, and wait in a location that suits them. That’s empowering for consumers who have become adept at managing the rest of their lives online. As a result of these interventions, you’ll be able to reduce your number of no-shows, manage customer experiences and make sure that a medical appointment is as pleasant as possible from start to finish.
Long after patients have gone home, you can still get a lot of value by gathering data from their earlier visits and using it to gather insights into overall customer behavior that will help you to optimize the customer experience across each of your locations.
People were already fed up with standing in queues that never seemed to move before the pandemic made it potentially life-threatening as well. Change has to happen, and the last two years have seen a dramatic acceleration in investment and adoption of queue management technology that is completely changing what people expect from their medical service providers.
Queuing is never fun but the good news is that it’s easier than ever to reduce patient wait times and improve the customer experience using the power of queue management technology to transform a visit to your hospital, pharmacy, or clinic.
Do you want to know more about the benefits of improving the patient experience? Then click here to access ACF’s downloadable guide to better patient care through technology.