Guest post by Dr. Alex Backer, founder and CEO, QLess.
We’ve all been there—sitting for hours in a waiting room of patients requiring medical care. With only a nine-month-old copy of TIME magazine to entertain you, your mind will likely wander to your fellow patients. What ails them? Avian flu? Tuberculosis? The measles? It’s no wonder that patients who have to endure long waits and exposure to other ailments either walk away or become less than enamored with their healthcare provider.
Nearly one in four patients echo the same complaint when visiting an urgent care center, hospital or their primary care physician: time spent waiting, and waiting and waiting some more before they are seen. People are impatient when it comes to waiting for anything. This is even worse when related to medical attention. Long waits at medical offices create an awful first impression and a stressful atmosphere that also adversely effects staff. Worst of all, the long waits and the resulting issues could be so easily avoided.
So how do you ease the pain for your patients and staff? Start by defining how you like to be treated when visiting medical offices or other service providers. Then share a commitment across your team to maintain a patient experience based on respect, thoughtfulness and efficiency. Lay down ground rules and targets that are achievable and actively promote these to your team and patients. On an ongoing basis, recognize and praise your team’s achievements in meeting goals and going beyond in their efforts to engage patients effectively.
Technology can also play a huge role in eliminating waiting room frustrations. Wait management solutions take the pain out of appointment setting and management for both your patients and your office. Beyond the improvement this offers to the patient experience, time slots are optimized and resources aligned automatically.
How It Works
Virtually everyone carries a mobile device. So why not empower patients to interact with you via their phones, or even their computers? QLess, a wait technology provider of mobile queue solutions, offers a simple-to-use and easy-to-monitor-and-manage solution that does the following:
1) Patients opt to join a virtual queue before coming to the care facility, or upon arrival, via text messaging, a phone call into a QLess automated line, a tablet, or through the healthcare provider’s website; they may wait at home, in the mall or in a coffee shop nearby rather than being exposed to other patients’ ailments in a waiting room
2) Once they enter their cell phone number, patients are placed in a virtual waiting line and receive SMS notifications on the time they will be seen; this removes frustrating waiting room delays and alleviates patients’ worries as to when they will see a physician or other healthcare provider
3) Patients receive on-demand periodic push notifications by SMS message, or voice calls, to keep them informed of any delays
4) If the patient is running late, he/she may inform the healthcare provider via SMS and have themselves pushed back in the queue to allow the care provider to accommodate other patients and optimize slots rather than wait for a patient who will be late to show up—or not at all
The end result? Walkaways, no-shows and wasted time slots become a thing of the past. Patient satisfaction gets a significant boost along with your team’s productivity. Dr. Dan Murphy, owner of South Tampa Immediate Care, said: “People love it. It tells patients: ‘Hey listen, we’re here for you. We’re adding this convenience for you,’ and people like that and stick with us … QLess has provided my business with one of the most innovative customer service technologies of the 21st century. It has improved our customer satisfaction by reducing the time that a patient waits in the office.”
Another provider, Impact Urgent Care, saw its Google reviews jump from three-stars, with complaints about the wait before implementing mobile wait technology, to consistent five-star reviews, most of which mention promptness or online check-in, since the center launched QLess almost a year ago:
How Healthcare Providers Benefit
Why does patient flow matter? Unhappy patients will likely seek medical treatment elsewhere after experiencing long waiting room times. In the era of online reviews and social media, one bad customer experience can lead to fewer customers for years. Moreover, unhappy employees are often unproductive or disruptive. Your bottom line will quickly suffer too–that’s why optimizing the patient experience starting with your first points of contact is so vital to your organization’s profitability and reputation.
Online check-in and FlexAppointments also help convert website visitors into in-clinic patients. More than 70 percent of the people who use a QLess widget at a health provider’s website actually show up to see their medical provider. For Impact Urgent Care, many hundreds of patients per location join their wait list before they even show up at the clinic.
With virtual wait technology like QLess, healthcare facilities optimize patient care, greatly reduce waiting times and improve overall patient satisfaction. Busy urgent care centers, including Impact Urgent Care, have increased customer satisfaction by 20 percent upon implementation, as measured by Net Promoter Scores. To boot the technology, cloud-based solutions can be set up in just hours.
Beyond the improved service experience, healthcare facilities can also access useful analytic data on patient traffic patterns. This can be a big plus from an operational standpoint. Administrators and physicians can ascertain how long patients wait for treatment, as well as how this varies from day to day, by the week or even by the month. In addition, healthcare providers can ascertain how long a patient is willing to wait for healthcare, as well as how many (if any) customers are lost because of waiting times. Analytics also help identify what staff member treats the most patients, where patients come from, and how many of the patients are repeats. Technology like QLess can answer these questions in seconds. Not only can employees see who the patient is, but they’re able to identify preferences, in turn serving patients more quickly.
Implementing a virtual wait experience also improves employee productivity. Instead of office administrators focusing on appointment scheduling and cancelling, they have time freed up for important paperwork, office needs, and more.
Time is of the essence for patients and staff alike. By implementing good patient practices and technology, healthcare providers can boost customer satisfaction, and make big gains in team productivity and profitability. Reducing staff and patient frustration and stress allows healthcare providers to do what they do best: treat their patients and let them return to healthy, productive lives.