From scheduling an appointment to waiting to see the doctor, waiting is an inevitable part of the patient experience. Fortunately, healthcare providers can architect a patient-centered queue management approach that lowers stress and drives satisfaction. It turns out that the waiting experience can play a powerful role in patient happiness: 63% of patients cited waiting as the single most stressful part of their healthcare experience. Of those surveyed in the study, 85% reported spending an extra 10-30 minutes simply waiting for the doctor to arrive to a scheduled appointment.
So, how can healthcare providers create a more positive wait? Here are four ways:
Crowds of people waiting can place added stress on your staff and your patients. Technology-enabled queuing solutions, such as virtual queuing, allow patients to register themselves for a place in line even before they arrive for treatment or to pre-schedule their arrival for a less busy time of day. This method of queuing effectively disperses crowds since patients and loved ones are free to wait outside, in a relaxing waiting area, or even in the comfort of their home until it is their time to be treated. Text alerts can automatically notify patients when their treatment time is coming soon and two-way communication via texting can allow patients to request more time and be re-queued if they are running late or simply need more time.
The patient experience can be daunting and exhausting, taking anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours. But, you can do your best to make a comfortable and relaxing environment for your patients and visitors. Start by taking the physical line out of waiting in order to free patients to wait in a more pleasant way. Virtual queuing, as explained above, makes this possible. Once the physical line is gone, research shows that little changes to the waiting room can make a big difference in satisfaction. For example, to improve the waiting experience for patients, Steelcase Health recently added lounge seating, created a coffee space with a round table and added plugs in seating areas for easy technology charging.
To meet such high customer volume, efficiency is key. A data-driven queue management approach can offer valuable real-time and predictive data to help you meet patient volume demands. Footfall analytics solutions use pattern and event recognition to identify traffic trends and determine how to best allocate your staff. To address issues in real-time, the same analytics systems can monitor ongoing activity to alert you when service issues, such as unusually long wait times, are imminent.
Service efficiency can also be addressed in a linear queue using a call-forward system. When waiting to check in or check out, patients can line up in a traditional line and as they reach the front and when the next service station becomes available, a staff member can press a button to trigger audio and visual alerts to guide the patient to an available station. Systems like these lessen lag time between services in order to speed up service efficiency.
Don’t test the patience of your patients. Customers have a tendency to misjudge wait times when left to their own devices, overestimating total wait time by up to 36%. Meanwhile, it is shown that when wait times are known, the wait feels shorter.
Manage wait time estimates and drive down perceived wait times by keeping patients informed. Digital signage placed in the waiting area can easily communicate wait times to customers, helping manage expectations and reduce stress throughout the patient and visitor waiting experience. In fact, research shows that 55% of patients want signage placed in the waiting room to keep them informed as they wait.
Virtual queuing solutions can also help by allowing customers to register and receive text updates about their real-time position in line. A recent study found 61% of patients would like to receive a text alert when their scheduled appointment is expected to experience delays.
By focusing on queue management, healthcare providers can tackle one of the most stressful parts of the patient experience, create more order, and allow your staff to focus on one patient at a time. To learn how to get more out of your healthcare facility’s queue management, explore Lavi’s queuing solutions for healthcare.