Walking into a clinic or hospital, the queue lines and crowds of patients in the waiting area are common. The long and distressing waiting times have caused the atmosphere to devastate, inevitably driving up stress for each patient.
If you have ever visited a healthcare facility, such situations should be familiar to you.
Without patient queue management, the long waiting times result in high dissatisfaction among patients. Studies have shown this could “diminish the patients’ perception of the doctors’ capability and decrease the patients’ confidence in the health services provided” (NCBI). In other words, if patients had to queue for long periods of time, they would feel the quality of medical care is poorer.
Besides undermining the patient’s perception of care, the lack of patient queue management could even lead to the deterrence of actual care. According to the 9th Annual Vitals Wait Time report, 30% of patients left their appointments due to long waiting times. This was a significant number of patients who were unable to receive healthcare just because the queues were too long.
Such detrimental effects should be mitigated through various queue management strategies. Here we introduce proactive communication, the creation of a pleasant waiting environment, and most effectively, a patient queue management system.
Patients, like customers, want to feel valued by service providers – in this case, the healthcare professionals. When patient queue management is absent, patients are often left to endure their discomfort in the dreary atmosphere of the waiting area. It is inevitable that they gradually feel less valued by the healthcare providers. This compromises the service quality.
Dissatisfaction is further escalated when people tend to overestimate the duration they have waited in line by around 36% (The New York Times). When patients are unaware of waiting times, they develop a perception they have waited for a very long time, causing them to lose their patience more easily. However, when patients are aware of waiting times, the wait actually feels shorter.
In order to tackle these situations, healthcare organisations should implement proactive communication with patients on the estimated waiting times and delays. They can conduct this in an efficient way by sending text messages or displaying information on digital signages at the facility.
Human labour need not be involved, allowing healthcare professionals to focus on serving and treating patients. Additionally, this manages patients’ expectations on waiting times, minimising the gap between perceived and actual waiting time.
With this, there is definitely more care and attention given to patients as they get regular updates on waiting times and delays. Patients’ satisfaction could be maintained and service quality is safeguarded. Hence, patient queue management through proactive communication enables healthcare professionals to deliver a better experience for patients.
Pleasant waiting environment
Waiting periods at healthcare facilities could last from 30 minutes to a few hours. This seemingly never-ending wait patients have to face is undoubtedly unnerving and exhausting, especially if one were to be enduring the discomfort of their illness. Thus, there should be a need to provide a pleasant waiting experience for patients.
Here are a few simple ways to improve the waiting environment:
- Swap out cold hard chairs for cushioned seats with backrests
- Install water coolers or water dispensers to keep patients hydrated
- Provide up-to-date magazines and newspapers for entertainment
- Put up health-related informational posters and brochures
- Set up charging ports around the waiting area
Offering opportunities for patients to refresh and re-energise is a great way to distract them from the long waiting time. By keeping patients occupied, they would perceive the waiting time to be shorter than expected. Hence, patient queue management again aids in reducing the gap between perceived and actual waiting time.
The waiting experience impacts patients’ satisfaction and perceptions about the healthcare organisation. Creating a pleasant waiting environment will be an effective strategy to help drive satisfaction and produce more positive sentiments for the healthcare organisation.
Patient queue management system
A patient queue management system is an automated system that aids healthcare organisations in monitoring and organising their patient flow more efficiently and effectively.
Utilising both hardware and software, here are some key features that patient queue management systems offer:
Healthcare facilities can set up physical kiosks at entrances to have patients carry out mandatory self-check-ins. This mainly involves temperature checks, posing screening questions, collection of basic personal information, and identifying the purpose-of-visit.
Some sign-in systems also allow for badge printing as physical proof of compliance with regulations set in the facility. With the badge, healthcare providers can easily note who is allowed in the vicinity and who is not. There will be greater control over patients who are arriving at the facilities.
The digitised patient queue management system also takes over the repetitive screening task and conducts it in a streamlined manner. Thus, healthcare providers are able to regulate patients based on their own guidelines, restrictions, and/or protocols efficiently.
Most importantly, patients are able to complete these sign-ins and screenings within a few taps and scans – saving the time spent waiting in line for a receptionist to serve them!
With the world swamped by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is needless to emphasise the importance of social distancing to minimise the spread of infection. Overcrowding at healthcare facilities then becomes an issue. Patients might come into close contact with one another, increasing their risk of exposure to any virus or disease.
Patient queue management systems can help to manage the number of people in the vicinity, especially for waiting areas in clinics and hospitals. Simply adjust the parameters such as the number of pax per site or per hour. The check-in systems will then automatically limit the number of people allowed in the area.
These systems also help to capture and analyse queue data, providing forecasts on the daily number of patients and average wait times. When healthcare organisations make use of this data to plan for peak periods, it better achieves effective patient queue management.
Collection and analysis of patients’ feedback
Having a clear picture of patients’ expectations and their opinions is very important. Such information enables healthcare organisations to identify and work on potential issues, ultimately improving the service quality.
The implementation of patient queue management systems allows for the collection of patients’ valuable feedback. One way is to set up interactive tablets, kiosks, and displays at various strategic locations where patients can submit their feedback. Another effective method these systems offer is sending text messages or emails with a post-visit feedback survey link to patients.
The system encourages patients to provide honest feedback for the healthcare provider in terms of the service quality, their satisfaction level, issues they faced, etc. After analysis of the feedback received, the system produces an intuitive dashboard with meaningful insights. The dashboard allows healthcare providers to understand patients’ experiences and address their concerns effectively.
With a range of features available and customisable, patient queue management systems provide a one-stop solution to manage queues. Eventually, it allows healthcare providers to attain greater operational efficiency. These systems also aid in dispersing crowds to create a waiting environment that is less stressful for patients.
On top of that, patient queue management creates shorter waiting times which can lead to higher satisfaction levels for patients. When patients are satisfied with the care they received, positive word-of-mouth occurs. Not only do patients give positive online reviews and ratings, but they will also recommend the healthcare service to their family and friends. This could build trust and the reputation of the healthcare organisation.
Patient queue management is vital for any healthcare organisation. It aids in enhancing the patients’ experience to maintain or raise satisfaction levels with the organisation.
As patient safety is a bottom line for healthcare providers, it is also critical to ensure crowds and long queues are prevented at the facilities with proper patient queue management strategies.
With patient queue management, both patients and healthcare organisations will benefit immensely.