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Eliminating Waiting Times from Healthcare

January 25, 2021 - by Parul Saini, Webmedy team

Ever wanted to wake up early, get ready quickly, travel a long way to reach the hospital in the hope to of getting there before anyone else to avoid waiting in long queues?

Waiting Time Frustration

A survey conducted by Software Advice revealed that out of 5000 patients, 97% of them are frustrated about the long waiting time at hospitals. Another survey from Vitals shows that 30% of patients already left an appointment due to long queues and, 20% of physicians change their time because of wait times. In another study, it was found that patients spend more than 50% of their total time waiting than actually receiving care.

Waiting for a long time is a frustrating experience. Healthcare organizations can adopt a series of strategies to make healthcare access more available for patients and keep wait times down. Healthcare should use clinical resources and technology effectively that helps patients and organizations can work to reduce waiting times for patients.

Long appointment wait times occur because healthcare organizations have more patients who need appointments than appointments available. Some hospitals can overcome this problem by creating more appointments and patient care access. To make waiting more bearable, Some organizations can also use patient education strategies to help patients triage themselves. But these steps at diverting the patient's attention don't solve the problem itself.

Waiting times are a reflection of how healthcare organizations work. It will be a part of the patient's life till the inappropriate treatment, operational or technical inefficiencies, and misalignment of services are here. What needs to be understood is that it is not the accidental long waiting time in some hospitals which causes patient disappointment, but it is the lack of communication about it from the hospital to the patients that prove to be a dampener.

If a patient's appointment is running late due to certain clinical or non-clinical circumstances, the hospital must readily and sincerely indicate the same to the patient with their honest, empathetic apologies. Most patients are nice, rational human beings and will more often than not understand the delay as long as they are informed nicely and on time. It all comes down to efficient communication. In a research, it was revealed that 80% of the patients would be less disappointed if they knew how long the wait would be and a personal apology from the doctor or hospital side would reduce frustration for 70% of patients.

Tips for Patients for reducing their waiting time

  • Try to get the earliest appointment in the morning or the first appointment after lunch. During each of those times, you'll avoid a backed-up group of patients and you have a better chance of wasting less time in the waiting room.
  • When you make your appointment, ask which day of the week is the lightest scheduling day. Fewer patients on that day will probably mean fewer wait times.
  • If the doctor sees children as patients, then try not to schedule your appointment on a school holiday.
  • Avoid Saturdays or evenings, if possible.

Can digital technologies help in eliminating wait times?

Healthcare organizations should address the root issue of general appointment availability to better address long wait times. Long wait times occur because there are fewer appointments available than patients waiting for care. Many healthcare organizations are revamping their appointment scheduling method to make it easier for patients to get care. Digital appointment scheduling solutions like Online Appointment Scheduling (integrated with EHR applications) enables patients to schedule their appointment according to their convenience.

Remote Care

No place is more comfortable than the place we call "home". With more digital solutions available we can reduce the problem of travel times. This is especially effective to eliminate unnecessary hospital visits. Here, Telemedicine is a good option. During a pandemic, such services have been on the rise. Even cancer patients are getting their treatment at home thanks to technology. Moreover, telemedicine can help in reducing waiting times. Telemedicine can be further supplemented with portable diagnostic devices and at-home lab tests.

With remote care, digital technologies, and telemedicine, waiting time can be reduced to some extent while having faster access to quality care, right at your convenience. In a study by the University of Iowa, it was found that waiting time can be minimized to 6 minutes on average with telemedicine services available. It also helps doctors to spend less time transitioning between patients. Moreover, by using remote care and telehealth services patient no-show problems can also be prevented.

Even though it is not possible to eradicate waiting time from the healthcare sector, hospitals must adapt to new care delivery models and technology and must improve on communication with the stakeholders to a larger extent to offer a more fluid experience.

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