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To the waiting room and beyond!

May 14, 2015

 

I was recently involved in a conversation with my colleagues and wife (a GNP) about why patients with set appointment times often find themselves waiting for hours to be seen and treated. Usually it boils down to one or two patient visits that took longer than normal and thus push out the entire day. But this still leaves patients that have appointments to sit in waiting rooms or exam rooms to patiently, well....... wait.

 

We've all been there, the only thing to entertain us is an old magazine or television playing daytime TV. In the last visit to my primary, I took a moment to look up from Candy Crush and saw a waiting room full of people, all staring at their phones. Now, there are several factors that lead to high wait times and delayed  visits and I’m not trying to solve those here, but I think there is an obvious opportunity for healthcare organizations starting with waiting rooms.

 

Anyone that works in healthcare knows that the industry is finding itself in a rapidly changing environment requiring higher quality of care and better outcomes for a lower cost. While this is issue can’t be solved with one particular solution, a challenge I see most healthcare organizations face is a lack of innovation in communications. Healthcare has traditionally done what we've needed it to, heal. But when asked to effectively communicate and engage patients beyond the physical patient interaction, they often find themselves falling short. Some would argue this as a major reason we see high readmission rates, low adherence to discharge orders, and low quality scores.

 

I find it interesting that in a time where we see higher than ever emergency visits for non-emergencies, high readmission rates, and low discharge adherence - we still have our patients sitting and waiting without any engagement. By using the televisions as signage, these organizations could show health tips or preventative care measures, non-emergency treatment locations, and upcoming events or classes. These can also show advertisements for other service lines and offerings like blood pressure screenings or tooth whitening.

 

Healthcare organizations have a unique advantage in that their audience is completely captive and looking for the services provided. In the waiting rooms, this seems like a great time to use engaging video or imagery to drive messaging that can help increase quality, reduce readmission, and hopefully improve outcomes. But what happens after the waiting room experience? That’s where it gets interesting.

 

I like to believe that one day healthcare will be completely interactive and less of a unidirectional experience but until then we have a responsibility to drive innovation around patient engagement. I believe that digital signage when coupled with technology like beacon can be something that helps shape and change the way patients are informed and interact with their care professionals.

 

What if you were waiting in an exam room and happened to have the app for that care provider and it triggered a multi-touch engagement through the in-room display and your mobile device? What if that engagement gave you information on your condition/complaint and tips on how to engage your care provider? This type of thinking is what we need to help change the healthcare landscape and empower patients to drive a bi-directional treatment experience. What do you think?

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