For years and years, patients have sat in the doctor’s waiting room until it’s their turn to be called in. And over these years, waiting rooms haven’t seen any significant changes. There are a few chairs, stacks of outdated magazines, maybe a fish tank or some fake flowers, and patients sit in there anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes before being called back.
Now, with the increase in virtual waiting rooms and telehealth, it may be time to update how your medical practice handles its waiting room.
What Is A Virtual Waiting Room?
Virtual waiting rooms offer a variety of services that not only benefit the medical practice utilizing them, but benefit the patient as well. These virtual waiting rooms can also be referred to as curbside-check in or no-contact waiting rooms. These virtual waiting rooms are beginning to offer a replacement for the typical in-office waiting room.
Virtual waiting rooms can have two forms:
- In-Office Appointments – In this context, the patient will sit in their vehicle, check in, and then wait there until the exam room becomes available.
- Televisit – The difference here is that the patient will be signing into a virtual waiting room from their home as they wait for their doctor to be ready for a telehealth appointment.
Both of these virtual waiting rooms aim to keep the patient from a traditional waiting room where they could potentially be exposed to any other pathogens that other patients may have.
Why Have Virtual Waiting Rooms Become Important
Relatient: Waiting Room Solution provides what has come to be a much-needed solution, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. While many view the waiting room as just a nuisance and a boring place to wait and see a doctor, there’s actually a lot more to it than that.
What it comes down to is safety.
During the current pandemic, new risks have become apparent for patients and medical office staff. The pandemic has resulted in an increase in telehealth, which is basically virtual appointments with your doctor via video calls, in order to give patients an option to speak with their doctor without going into the office and potentially exposing themselves to any disease.
Virtual waiting rooms will serve the same purpose, even in a post-pandemic world.
Key Benefits To Virtual Waiting Rooms
There’s no medical office out there that wouldn’t benefit from having a virtual waiting room to replace their traditional one. Here’s why:
Better Infection Control
More patients have begun to seek outpatient care for more complex medical conditions than ever before and, as this happens, waiting rooms are becoming even more crowded. While in these waiting rooms, germs and infection can spread through shared surfaces, like chairs and magazines, but they can also spread through the air.
The spread of germs through the air can’t be controlled through hand sanitizer stations or social distancing. If, instead of packing patients into a crowded waiting room, patients can wait in the safety of their vehicle, both patients and staff can significantly reduce their risk of infections.
Improved Patient Information
Medical practices can also utilize these virtual waiting rooms and they can help to gather medical histories, medication records, payer information, and health insurance information all in one place.
If all of this information can be collected without meeting face to face, then integration systems can be used to help make that information more easily accessed by clinicians.
Above all, virtual waiting rooms serve as great accommodations for patients. There are many patients that are at risk any time they enter a waiting room, such as:
- Immunocompromised patients
- Chronically ill patients
- Disabled patients
- Small children
- Patients who feel very ill
Beyond the possibility of spreading diseases through a waiting room, they can simply be inconvenient or annoying to the patients who have to wait in them. When a solution is out there to simply allow patients to wait in their cars if it’ll make them happier with their medical practice of choice, why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of that option?
The 6 Steps Of Virtual Waiting Rooms
Not only do virtual waiting rooms offer many benefits, but they’re easy to utilize as well. Here are the 6 easy steps involved in virtual waiting rooms:
- Text/email reminder of appointment is sent
- Patient will complete the pre-check process and be given the option for a virtual waiting room
- Patient information is verified by staff
- After arriving in the parking lot, the patient calls or texts to alert staff of their arrival
- Staff checks the patient in and updates them when the doctor is ready
- Text is sent to alert patient to come inside
While these steps may vary slightly from practice to practice, they will at the very least be similar to these six.
While the coronavirus pandemic may have been the main reason telehealth and virtual waiting rooms have become more and more apparent, they provide so many benefits that they’re sure to remain a use of medical practices long after the pandemic ends.