I have no evidence to back that up, but I’m willing to put my neck on the line for that statement.Waiting for an unknown length of time causes an individual more stress and anxiety. This is due to a sense of wasted time and uncertainty. Patients asking themselves questions like: How long do I have to wait? Could I have been more productive with my time? How much longer? Why can’t they tell me when I’m next? I need the toilet, but I don’t want to miss my turn.This study, by ResearchGate, gives theoretical support to the usual assumptions underlying the development of systems to provide “real time” information to people in waiting situations.We believe that this theory is proliferated in a hospital’s emergency room, and evokes an even stronger emotional response to waiting.Hospital emergency waiting rooms are notorious for long wait times, which can be painful or uncomfortable. These factors are something that can and should be addressed.
How can we improve things?
In a number of ways. Innovative companies like Nexa and Jayex—customers of ours—are aiming to improve waiting and patient flow in the healthcare industry. Using self-service kiosks, computer systems, TV screens and more, to encourage better transparency. Also using SMS to notify people when they are due to be seen.
If a patient waiting could be given real time updates of when they were due to be seen, they are able to relax more. Having an understanding of their wait time, that they can trust, allows them to go for a walk to calm down. If you had 20 mins to wait, you can be safe in the knowledge that you can go outside for fresh air, go for a coffee and some food, any number of things. However, if you’re unsure, you might sit on your seat, too nervous to move in case you miss your name being called out.Also having a system in place that keeps you up-to-date with your place in the queue can help relieve some stress. Oftentimes you are sitting for a while, and they start to wonder if you have missed your name being called. This encourages you to go and check with the receptionist or nurse. Not only is this making the patients more nervous, but these receptionist and nurses are being interrupted from their usual work.
Shorten the wait time
The most obvious way to improve waiting times would be to shorten the wait. This can be done by improving the customer flow. Jayex, for example, have been working on a way to decrease the time between appointments. They do this by having TV screens call the next patient as the previous appointment comes to an end. Jayex have received feedback that enabled doctors to finish up to an hour earlier than previously. Although some doctors claimed that they get less exercise because it cuts out the walk from their office to the waiting room—but with an extra hour at the end of the day, they can easily exercise properly during a longer lunch break or after work.Another way to shorten the wait time can be to understand your queue through analysis of supply and demand. Instead of sticking with appointments being 10 minutes long, with no buffer in between, the appointments can be adjusted to different needs. You may not be able to control external demand, but you do have control of internal demand, for example, asking doctors have the control of when they ask patients to come back in for a repeat visit, they can specify a time when demand is generally low, thus filling that time up and hopefully relieving time at busier periods.Mark Murray, MD, MPA, says “If we can get a balance between the demand for appointments and the supply of appointments—if we can get, understand, and measure that balance—then we can eliminate waiting times. That involves basically doing today’s work today, rather than using the old paradigm of stratifying urgent and non-urgent work. This does not prevent us from being able to see those patients with urgencies; changing the way that we see priority allows us to do the work that needs to be done today, as well as the work that could be done today.”
Improve the waiting experience
Along with keeping patients updated on their position in a queue, you can do other things to help make their visit more comfortable. There are a few ways to do this. Make patients feel more at home by creating a relaxed home-like environment. Furnish the room with comfy and spacious seating. Decorate with nice pieces of art, posters, lots of plants and make sure to keep the area tidy.Provide up-to-date reading materials and get rid of those magazines from 5 years ago that have been piling up. There’s nothing that says “we don’t care” like having outdated magazines.Providing modern conveniences such as wifi and phone charging stations is another way to show patients you care and are up-to-date. Many people might bring in an iPad and complete other tasks whilst they wait, thus minimising the feeling of wasted time.
Decrease the number of patients
This one is not always feasible, and not always in your control. However, you can help reduce the number of patients by the doctors using pamphlets and other information, and not arranging follow-up appointments if they’re not necessary.There are numerous ways to help with the dreadful experience of the waiting room. SMS has its part to play along with many other techniques. So if you’re thinking of improving your patients experience in the waiting room, get in touch with us, Jayex, Nexa or any number of companies aiming to improve this experience.