How Patient Queue Management Software Can Create Safer Waiting Rooms
Waiting rooms have been an essential aspect of hospitals, doctor’s offices, and other healthcare facilities. But it doesn’t take much thought to realize the idea is counterintuitive. Crowding individuals with ailments in congested areas while they wait for assistance is not ideal. This was only further emphasized as a person-to-person airborne pandemic struck the world. Patient queue management software can be the solution to remedy this.
This experience caused many healthcare professionals to have to re-evaluate their waiting procedures. There were concerns about pandemic transmission in waiting rooms and the overall healthcare experience. Amid virus anxiety, would patients sit with others even with a mask on?
For a while, there were no true means of eliminating the waiting room. But in recent years, to address these concerns, many healthcare providers have been implementing patient queue software like QLess. This software aims to help reduce patients’ anxiety and create a waiting room experience that meets customers’ expectations. The healthcare industry is crowded, and consumers abandon providers that can’t meet their needs. According to Medical Economics, 69% of patients would switch providers for better services.
Patient queue management software is an impactful solution that can de-congest waiting rooms and provide a safer, more patient-friendly experience. In a time where consumers easily switch businesses, the patient experience is vital. Below, we will break down what patient queue management is, how a virtual queue management system creates safer spaces, and why this is so important for patients and healthcare organizations.
What is Patient Queue Management Software?
Before we go any further, it is important to fully understand what patient queue management software is. The idea is relatively straightforward, and it has changed the healthcare sector. Why not have a virtual waiting room to manage customer flow instead of a physical one? Patients can access this virtual waiting room from their phones, computers, or on-site kiosks.
With key features that enable customers to track the actual wait times for appointments, monitor the progress of the line they’re in, and communicate with staff, patients have a drastically changed experience when using healthcare services. Some organizations still hesitate to embrace and implement digital technology into the patient experience. But data indicates that customers already rely on digital technology and expect organizations to accommodate that reliance.
According to a poll from Healthfully, 80% of consumers want the ability to use technology to manage their healthcare experience. Furthermore, the average consumer uses tech constantly throughout their daily lives. The average U.S. adult spends more than seven hours a day on screens, according to Exploding Topics. Healthcare organizations should prioritize implementing helpful tech solutions like patient queue management to avoid customer alienation.
Patient queue management software has substantial benefits that enterprises should not overlook. With features that allow customers to enter virtual queues from their phones, patients can remotely wait in the virtual waiting room and monitor their queue times. Implementing virtual queues doesn’t mean healthcare organizations need to eliminate waiting rooms. It simply gives patients the ability to choose.
Are Waiting Rooms Putting Patients At-Risk?
The million-dollar question that healthcare organizations might have is whether or not waiting rooms are such a bad thing. Waiting rooms were the only option for healthcare services before technology advanced enough to make them less necessary. So how bad could it be? By implementing software to eliminate waiting rooms, might healthcare organizations solve a problem that doesn’t exist?
The answer to this question is a firm no. Waiting rooms pose a genuine risk to older patients’ well-being. A 2012 study of elderly residents of long-term care facilities published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal showed that a visit to an emergency department is associated with more than a threefold increased risk of acute infection. While this vindicates the need for patient queue software, it is also common sense. Requiring sick and injured people to share a room for extended periods increases patient risk.
The pandemic highlighted that the prior waiting room model is untenable during an airborne virus outbreak among those visiting emergency rooms and doctors’ offices. Healthcare providers adapted by spacing chairs, having customers wait outside, and mandating masks. While they may have curbed the virus from spreading, they reduced operational efficiency and didn’t enhance patient satisfaction.
It is not insignificant that waiting rooms also have extremely long patient wait times. The longer customers are cramped in a waiting area, even if socially distanced, the more at-risk they are. Similarly, the more unhappy they will be. This is why it is incredibly important for enterprises to be very conscious of the state of their waiting rooms.
What Customers Think About the Waiting Room Experience
We’ve established that waiting rooms might inadvertently put customers at risk, but what do your patients think of them? Customer satisfaction is vital in healthcare, as it’s still a business, and unhappy customers can easily switch providers. The waiting room is a defining step in the patient’s journey before receiving service. So it is worth asking if increasing patient satisfaction in the waiting room experience is necessary or if customers are okay with the current status quo.
Data shows that consumers distrust crowded waiting rooms and dislike the experience they provide. A QLess survey of 250 U.S. adults showed that 59.4% of consumers associate congested waiting areas with unsafe conditions. If customers feel unsafe in the waiting room, chances are they will not enjoy their overall experience.
A contributing factor in this situation is that the average waiting room is just not a pleasant place to be. Typical healthcare waiting rooms present sterile environments with white walls, fluorescent lighting, outdated magazines, and a T.V. This is hardly a positive environment, and according to Fierce Healthcare, unpleasant waiting rooms are a bigger issue for customers than long wait times.
Rather than investing in more comfortable chairs or a higher-definition television, enterprises should focus on the real problem. Customers just don’t like waiting rooms either way. Patients prefer waiting from home or nearby cafes to congested waiting areas. Giving the consumer the option to skip the waiting room altogether is the best solution to a longstanding problem.
Creating a Positive Patient Experience With Queue Management
The healthcare industry is about more than just improving patients’ well-being, although that is the primary objective. The modern consumer isn’t satisfied with just receiving excellent quality of care. The experience for patients along the way is not nearly as important. Healthcare organizations that want to survive in this new age of experience-centric care will do well to improve their waiting room.
According to Forbes, 60% of Americans have had a negative healthcare experience in the past year, and 52% of those people will tell others about their negative experiences. Curating a positive waiting experience without risk and discomfort is important in building a patient-friendly healthcare organization. This will help create loyal customers and position healthcare companies to succeed.
How Patient Queue Management Software De-Congests Waiting Rooms
It is clear that there is a need for change in the waiting room experience. Customers don’t feel safe, and there is an established correlation between emergency waiting room visits and further infections. The problem has only gotten worse in recent years. A 2022 study by Yale showed that emergency room crowds had reached crisis levels and posed significant patient safety risks. The same is true across Canada. The crowding is due to an overstressed system, not necessarily management failure.
De-congesting the waiting room is incredibly important for both safety and satisfaction. Let’s explore how patient queue management software can lead to less crowded waiting rooms while providing efficient patient flow.
The primary feature that QLess offers that is designed to help de-crowd the waiting room is its remote check-in software. In a typical waiting room without a patient queue management solution, individuals have to check-in in person. They arrive at the front desk, inform staff they’ve arrived, fill in a form, and take a seat, waiting to hear their name called. This requires physical presence throughout the waiting process. Remote check-in software lets customers wait for their appointment without physically arriving until it begins.
How this works is that customers will receive a link when they register for an appointment. They can access this link via mobile devices, computers, or an on-site kiosk. When their appointment is scheduled, they can tap the link and check in. Once they’ve checked into their appointment, the patient is automatically placed in a virtual queue. The queue displays the number of customers ahead and the projected wait time based on data tracking and machine learning, accounting for the line’s size and wait times at different parts of the day.
Customers can be queued based on appointment type or healthcare professional they’re meeting. They can track their progress through an app or website and know when to be there. This means lines can move smoothly without customers needing to be in the waiting room until the end. This also lines up with what customers prefer. In a QLess survey of 250 consumers, 57.2% of respondents indicated they are likelier to patronize a business if they have early insights into wait times.
QLess virtual queuing system’s remote check-in feature eliminates the need for customers to enter waiting rooms until their appointment begins. They can choose whether they are comfortable in that environment and wait on their own terms.
Reduced Wait Times
Long wait times in healthcare have been a persistent issue and seem unavoidable due to the nature of the industry. Demand often exceeds the ability of facilities to provide efficient service due to the need for proper care and attention for each patient. This is why patients wait an average of over 18 minutes at physicians’ offices, according to PartnerMD, and 145 minutes at the average emergency room, according to Autoinsurance.org.
Patient queue management software can’t entirely solve the issue of long waits that are endemic to the healthcare industry. However, it can provide organizations with a tool to increase staff productivity, manage customer flow, and improve overall efficiency, positively impacting wait times.
The QLess hospital queue management system has been found to increase operational efficiency by up to 90%.
There are two key ways this software helps with this. Firstly, the patient queue management system completely automates the queue process, so enterprises don’t need to oversee it themselves. The software has configurable policies, like no walk-ins or a maximum 5-minute late policy for appointments. Then, the lineup can be completely automated, with the artificial intelligence-based system drastically more efficient and organized than a standard physical queue.
QLess’s patient queue management software also has smart calendar features that give staff a better sense of their day. The entire appointment calendar is displayed for them, showing the customer, appointment type, and more. The calendar is color-coded and organized and can be segmented, so employees have a heightened understanding of their daily workflow, increasing overall efficiency.
By reducing wait times, healthcare organizations can reduce the time people need to spend waiting for appointments. The remote check-in features allow customers to wait from wherever they please, but inevitably there will still be some customers that prefer to wait for appointments in waiting rooms. With automated queue management and smart calendar features, the QLess patient queue management system ensures waiting times are trimmed, resulting in less crowded waiting areas.
Communication in the healthcare process is incredibly important. Customers strongly desire communication from end-to-end in the healthcare process, and having better communication can lead to safer waiting rooms. With better communication, enterprises can create safer waiting rooms in several ways. Having customers that indicate they might be contagious wait remotely will reduce infection risk, and enabling customers to message staff if they are running slightly behind but still keep their appointment will lead to fewer delays. While this type of communication could lead to a safer, less crowded waiting area, many enterprises are ill-equipped to offer this level of communication.
Customers expect communication, particularly through digital methods. According to Forbes, 80% of consumers surveyed said they prefer to use digital communications with their healthcare providers, and 43% said they want to engage digitally with their healthcare providers before, after, and during their visits. But many enterprises lack the digital infrastructure to provide this level of communication that customers are hoping for, even if it can make customers happier and lead to safer waiting rooms. The QLess patient queue management system empowers healthcare organizations with bi-directional communication features that improve the connection between customers and staff.
With the QLess features, organizations can drive a more communicative approach to healthcare. They can individually message customers and receive responses, schedule messages to entire groups of customers, and create automated messages triggered at different parts of the patient journey.
Better communication means less confusion, as late customers or no-shows often trigger chain reactions that lead to extended delays. With better communication, there are fewer bottlenecks, which means lines move faster and waiting rooms are less crowded. This also improves the patient experience, as enterprises can answer patients’ questions digitally during busy times when they might not have the time to respond face-to-face.
Improved Virtual Healthcare Offerings
One of the most significant ways healthcare organizations have pivoted away from the standard waiting room model is by leaning into virtual healthcare. The pandemic made face-to-face appointments a near-impossibility at many practices, and to combat this, many organizations pivoted to virtual healthcare options like telehealth. Providing medical care virtually remains important even after the peak days of the pandemic. According to McKinsey, virtual healthcare remains hugely impactful, with 46% of consumers using telehealth now compared to 11% in 2019.
Telehealth leads to less congested, safer waiting rooms for obvious reasons. With the option to schedule remote healthcare appointments, customers don’t need to visit healthcare offices at all. If customers have a mild but contagious illness, healthcare organizations can schedule virtual appointments to ensure they don’t spread their illness. Ultimately, the fewer in-person visits, the less crowded waiting rooms will be. But many organizations might buckle under the weight of managing an entire virtual calendar without the proper digital solution.
A patient queue management system like QLess can aid a virtual appointment calendar by implementing the virtual queue features with remote patients.
QLess has virtual service features that enable healthcare organizations to provide a positive patient experience remotely. QLess is integrated with Zoom and Microsoft Teams, two popular video meeting platforms, and enables organizations to put customers in mixed queues that accommodate in-person and remote patients.
How this works for remote patients is they would schedule an appointment online and select a virtual appointment. They will then receive a QLess link and be placed into a virtual queue when they check in for their appointment. They will then be able to monitor their wait time, see who is in front of them, and receive a Zoom or Teams link when their appointment is ready to begin.
Virtual appointments are a crucial part of the post-pandemic world. The QLess patient queue management platform enables enterprises to integrate remote patients into their virtual queues and digital calendar, creating a smooth appointment process and easier virtual appointment management.
Patient Queue Management Key Takeaways
The waiting room is a longstanding problem in the healthcare industry that most organizations have neglected to address. The concept of making ill or injured patients wait for long periods in a congested room is one that doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, although there haven’t been other options for organizations until recently. Now that QLess for healthcare and other patient queue management systems exist, the need for waiting rooms has been drastically reduced.
These digital solutions enable enterprises to create a virtual queue where customers don’t have to be physically present to wait in line or in the waiting room. The customer can check in, monitor their status in line, and communicate updates with staff, all from their phones or computers. This means they can wait outside the office, from their home, at a nearby park, or wherever else they’d prefer. Customers can still wait in waiting rooms if they want to, but QLess allows them to wait remotely, helping to drastically reduce congestion in healthcare offices.
Reducing risk in the waiting experience should be an important objective for all healthcare organizations, and it resonates with customers. Consumers strongly dislike the typical waiting room process that has been the norm in healthcare for ages. With QLess’s queue software, healthcare businesses can meet the needs of the experience-oriented patient while creating a safer, more positive waiting process.