If your waiting room suddenly vanished, would your patients miss the experience? As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, this question is becoming less of a hypothetical and more of a practical question for medical practices across Canada.
The idea of the physicians’ waiting room disappearing altogether in the wake of COVID-19 is a serious possibility. According to studies in peer reviewed journals, patients’ waiting room experiences are directly related to patient satisfaction. Unpleasant waiting rooms have always been a point of contention, whether it’s a primary care physician’s office, an urgent care facility or an emergency room.
For physicians that are seeing patients in person, all the relevant paperwork and insurance information can be submitted and verified ahead of time. The sometimes nerve-racking wait inside the building has been replaced by a relatively more comfortable rest in the car, where you control the music, temperature and recline of the seat. A text or phone call now alerts you when it’s safe to enter the office.
All of this – eliminating the waiting room experience – minimizes interaction between potentially infectious individuals capable of transmitting COVID-19, but it also puts value on patient/practitioner time. And time, as physicians know, is valuable.
Although the Canadian Medical Association has offered guidelines to re-opening practices and waiting rooms safely, the virtual waiting room for in-person visits could be the future best practice in Canada and beyond. Finding new ways to dedicate more time to your patients, like outsourcing your medical dictation to a reliable online medical transcription, is critically important to streamlining a physician’s practice.
The virtual waiting room world doesn’t necessarily need special technology to reach a patient waiting in their vehicle, but software can automate the communication and ensure it is safe, private and that it is compatible with the other software used by the clinic for scheduling and forms.
The virtual waiting room model drops the number of contacts and the total time spent together in an enclosed space by health-care workers and individuals, which goes beyond Health Canada recommendations. Even those who can’t participate in virtual waiting room systems through circumstances such as lack of access to a mobile phone or accessing public transit for healthcare visits, but these individuals will still benefit from the virtual model by virtue of the decrease in the numbers of contacts and exposure times.
Another way to limit exposure is to restrict the number of physicians and staff present in the clinic or medical office at any given time. If some jobs can be done remotely, even for part of the week, or outsourced, such as for your medical transcription needs, this can further help reduce contacts.
Although virtual waiting room technologies available in Canada are not regulated by Health Canada, there are several Canadian-based companies offering these solutions – a quick Google search will uncover some specific names. Unfortunately, the costs can be expensive as they stand now, making a more low-tech solution a good starting point.
Anecdotally, strategies have included telephone and virtual triage ahead of attendance at clinics to figure out whether the patient needs to be seen in person or if they can safely have their visit bumped to a virtual version or postponed altogether.
Until costs come down for the fully virtual triage and scheduling software, perhaps the waiting room will remain on life support. This is especially true in the Canadian climate, which may make the idea of waiting in a vehicle for an extended period uncomfortable if not unsafe, due to extremes in weather and temperature.
Next up in Part 4: Virtual Care – From Bedside to Webside Manner
2Ascribe Inc. is a medical transcription services agency located in Toronto, Ontario Canada, providing medical transcription services to physicians, clinics and other healthcare providers across Canada. Our medical transcriptionists take pride in the quality of your transcribed documents. WEBscribe is our client interface portal for document management. 2Ascribe continues to implement and develop technology to assist and improve the transcription process for physicians and other healthcare providers, and recently introduced AUTOfax. AUTOfax works within WEBscribe to automatically send faxes to referring physicians when a document is signed off by the healthcare professional. As a service to our clients and the healthcare industry, 2Ascribe offers articles of interest to physicians and other healthcare professionals, medical transcriptionists and office staff, as well as of general interest. Additional articles may be found at http://www.2ascribe.com.