Online Tool Takes the 'Wait' Out of Waiting Rooms

Cynthia Johnson for HealthLeaders Media , December 27, 2010

In addition to posting their wait time, offices can also enter a reason for the delay. "If I'm running 45 minutes behind, I'll put in yellow and I'll put the reason for the delay—complex surgical discussion, emergency surgery, or whatever it might be," says Mehta. "Then what we've done is we've turned an uninformed wait into an informed wait and we've given people back half an hour of their day."

In the future, the product will interface with scheduling systems to further automate the alert process. For example, if the scheduling system has the patient's e-mail address or mobile phone number on record, it can send updates automatically. This feature is currently in development.

It's Patient-Approved
"We're all about customer service, so we try to do whatever we can to increase the customer's satisfaction and experience with us," says Rose Liggett, manager of marketing for Rose Medical Center, an imaging center in Denver. "With imaging, the equipment is pretty much the same. As a way to stand out, we try to strive for the best customer experience that we can have. We find that MedWaitTime offers and adds to that experience."

In August, the center implemented the MedWaitTime service at two of its facilities. The Lowry, CO, outpatient imaging facility, which offers MRIs, CT scans, x-rays, and ultrasounds, accepts walk-in patients. The service allows referring physicians to log in and determine whether their patients will experience delays at the office upon arrival. If so, they can tell the patients to wait until the delay has passed.

"The patient knows that they're not going to go from waiting in the referring physician's office to going over to radiology and having to wait 45 minutes there," Liggett says.

The Rose Breast Center in Denver, which accepts walk-in mammography appointments, also uses the tool. The service is beneficial to these patients because it is likely that they could experience significant delays due to high patient volume, says Liggett.

The organization is in the process of educating patients about the service when they schedule their appointment.

Although the service has only recently been implemented, Liggett says that patients who have appointments for longer examinations, such as MRIs and CT scans, are the ones who are logging on the most to check wait times.

"We need to pay attention to what is valuable to our customers," she says. "And time is valuable to everyone. By offering this program, we are acknowledging that their time is important to us."

Mehta says MedWaitTime receives many calls from organizations that have a director of customer experience or patient satisfaction. He notes that these organizations—because they are already working to improve customer satisfaction—believe that part of their product is to offer a pleasant patient experience, and MedWaitTime improves that experience.

Many patients will leave a practice if they repeatedly experience excessive wait times prior to an appointment, Mehta says. Even if they don't leave the practice, having displeased patients leads to bad word of mouth.

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1 comments on "Online Tool Takes the 'Wait' Out of Waiting Rooms"

rcirillo (1/6/2011 at 1:42 PM)
Great idea & 1st step, but too many important pieces missing in this satisfaction issue. I don't think the "reason" for their lateness is important as much as what options patients have when the providers are habitually that far behind. What happens with the patient's notification? Are patients allowed to email back that they want to reschedule and have reasonable options? Are patients allowed to show up an hour or two later and be seen right away, or are people who were scheduled 'after' them (incl those walk-ins) keep bumping them...meaning does this become the same old "1st come 1st served" scenario which brings everybody back to wait wait wait, or you will miss your turn.




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