Technology has accelerated changes in healthcare as a result of the public health crisis, offering patients convenient and safe ways to stay connected to their doctors. Telehealth, for example, allows patients to attend doctor appointments via video technology which ensures a face-to-face interaction while enabling both patients and providers to attend the appointment in the privacy and security of their own environments. Now, in addition to telehealth visits, virtual waiting rooms have emerged as a way to help patients continue to socially distance through the check-in process before attending a visit in person or online.
What is a virtual waiting room?
A virtual waiting room is a remote way for patients to:
- Check-in for appointments (in-person and virtual visits)
- Complete necessary paperwork digitally
- Receive instructions and safety protocols for in-person visits
- Be notified of when and where to go once their doctor is ready to see them in the exam room
A virtual waiting room can be deployed in just about any kind of medical setting, giving patients the option to check-in for their appointment or a visit to the emergency room while remaining in their car until their provider is ready to see them. This reduces the amount of time patients spend around others inside the office, thereby minimizing the chances that they’ll infect others or be infected by COVID-19. Virtual waiting rooms can also be used for telehealth visits to guide the registration process and notify patients when providers are ready to initiate the visit.
There’s a variety of ways to implement a virtual waiting room solution, from using HIPAA compliant texting and chatbots to other technology that can facilitate the remote check-in process. In many cases, patients can join a virtual waiting room after receiving a link via text message. After completing any necessary digital forms online, patients are placed in a virtual queue and alerted in real-time when the doctor is ready to see them. This offers many benefits for patients seeking care at any kind of specialty clinic, hospital, or primary care office.
Reasons why you need a virtual waiting room.
1. Contactless patient registration improves COVID-19 infection control.
Using a virtual waiting room allows your patients to bypass face-to-face registration which reduces contact with staff and other patients. Because COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets passed through the air after a cough, sneeze, or other forceful expressions, the only way to eliminate the risk of spread is to avoid contact altogether with others. By employing a remote patient registration process using digital forms or a chatbot, medical practices can still collect the information they need and offer any support patients need while filling out forms without coming into close contact.
2. Virtual waiting rooms offer a patient-friendly experience in a comfortable environment.
The traditional waiting room experience is often frustrating and inconvenient if you think about it. Whether or not you’re sick, the waiting room is often full of people with runny noses, coughs, and crying children who are also waiting to be seen which means it’s noisy, overwhelming, and a little bit awkward. When doctors fall behind, these noises seem to multiply as every minute waiting feels like a minute lost that could have otherwise been better spent.
In contrast, virtual waiting rooms allow patients who are waiting to see their doctor in person remain in their own vehicle where they can control the temperature and noise. As they wait, they can do what they’d like with the time they have whether that’s reading a book, working on their laptop, or FaceTiming a friend. And, a virtual queue keeps them updated on how much longer they have to wait so they’re never left wondering.
For patients using telehealth visits, your staff can still capture the required information and payment virtually using waiting room solutions. Meanwhile, patients register and wait for their appointment in the comfort of their own home where they’re relaxed, socially distanced, and maybe even surrounded by a supportive family. And, patients can spend their time how they wish in a “virtual parking lot” until their provider is ready to initiate the video visit.
3. It’s easier to maintain privacy and security.
If you think back to the traditional waiting room set-up, it can be challenging to maintain a sense of privacy, especially if you’re filling out paper registration forms with nearby patients looking over your shoulder. Waiting solutions eliminate this problem while collecting private health data using HIPAA compliant technology that helps providers understand the patient’s health condition without compromising security. And, patients don’t need to remember patient portal passwords or clunky app logins to “show-up” in the waiting room. Instead, they simply confirm their identity using two-step authentication via a direct link to their phone number.
4. The entire process can be automated, saving you practice precious resources.
The best part about remote check-in is that your practice can establish automated workflows from appointment reminders to patient check-in. This frees up your staff to focus on the tasks in front of them. Text messages can be created using customizable templates that pull relevant patient data, such as their appointment date and time, while repurposing language that guides patients through the process. You can still establish ways for patients to seek extra support, such as by texting “HELP” back to the office to solicit a phone call from the staff. But, the simple step of automation can greatly speed up the registration process while capturing and syncing patient information digitally into their medical record without the manual effort.
Do you need help launching a virtual waiting room at your practice? Contact us today for a free demo.
Virtualizing the waiting room experience will be key as healthcare providers get back to business.