Best Practices for your Virtual Waiting Room

The silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic is that it has been a catalyst for technology adoption in medical practices across the country. For years, telehealth has presented an opportunity to increase convenience of care, expand healthcare access for rural residents, and reduce physician burnout. Even before COVID-19, adoption was slowly increasing. In fact, telemedicine use increased from 5 to 22 percent among physicians between 2015 and 2018. Today, the realities of the pandemic-centric safety concerns along with a growing impetus from patient populations for convenient telehealth solutions have catapulted telemedicine into the everyday reality of most medical practices.

As practices offer a mix of virtual and in-person patient visits, they need a seamless Virtual Waiting Room workflow to handle pre-visit communication and patient intake needs. Whether a patient is waiting on their living room couch, or in their car in your parking lot, the tools and processes your staff employs should be coordinated and consistent.

These are the Virtual Waiting Room best practices we suggest:

Select an All-In-One Software Solution

Consider the patient’s entire pre-visit and day-of intake experience when designing your virtual waiting room. A few key items to consider include:

·      Managing your visit queue

·      Appointment confirmations and reminders

·      Emailed Visit instructions

·      Online Intake forms

·      Contactless Check-in process

·      Bidirectional SMS communications

The most seamless option is handling each of these items through a single software solution. Using one cohesive tool will help improve both staff workflow and patient experience. 

Automate, Automate, Automate

Automate as much of the pre-visit communication, patient intake, check-in, and post-visit communication as possible. This will reduce staff workload—a crucial consideration as many staff members are working remotely or are limited in number. Your all-in-one software solution should have the ability to automatically manage your visit queue, send appointment reminders, intake forms, and pre-visit communications, and seamlessly guide patients through your check-in process. 

Handle Pre-Visit Activities, Virtually

Insurance verification, financial responsibility determination, and completion of online authorization and intake webforms can all be handled virtually. A technology like Patient Communications Gateway makes this easy with electronic signature capability and an option to easily upload pictures of insurance and ID cards. We suggest automating appointment confirmations and reminders that contain links to forms and payment processes that are easy to complete in advance, keeping everyone safer and saving time for all involved. 

In addition to safety and convenience, virtual pre-visit communication also decreases appointment cancellations, increases data accuracy, and increases collections rates. This is because it increases a patient’s commitment to the appointment, allows patients time to gather all data, and allows patients to make prepayments online for existing balances and copays. It also helps patients be more informed as they receive information about what to expect at their visit before they arrive. 

Make In-Person Visits Safe and Seamless 

Many practices are asking patients to wait in their cars rather than in their waiting rooms to increase patient safety. Virtual communication allows your staff to easily inform patients of their spot in line and any needed adjustments to appointment time. One provider office we work with uses this process for her in-person patients: instead of walking straight to the doctor’s room, the day before an appointment, the patient receives an automated text message telling them to stay in their car upon arrival and once parked, text back ‘READY’. Signs at the facility and in the car park help reinforce this process. This keeps the risk of exposure low and puts convenience and control of time back into the hands of the patient. By using bidirectional texting functionality, patients can be alerted of appointment delays before they even leave their homes, which will increase patient satisfaction and overall experience.

Bottom Line:

The health crisis of 2020 has catapulted healthcare into the era of rapid healthcare technology adoption and growth; automated communication and virtual waiting rooms are now intrinsic parts of the new normal. This technology has already shown to increase appointment attendance, make patient experience and staff workflow more seamless, and reduced costs. Contact us to learn more about these ideas and get started!