Sitting in a waiting room is risky business, especially for those with compromised immune defense. Patients get exposed to all sorts of illnesses, and even people who don’t show symptoms of infections could still potentially spread them.
While the waiting room should be the doorstep to getting better, it could actually be the other way around.
The only foolproof way to confine disease and protect patients is to reduce contact with one another and the medical staff. The traditional waiting room model makes this challenging, forcing practices to consider new ways to keep their patients and staff safe.
The innovative use of digital care coordination technology can significantly decrease the time patients spend in waiting rooms while improving overall patient experience and reducing staff overhead.
The Risk in the Waiting Room
The Medical Group Management Association says that waiting rooms can be a major contributor to infections, with patients waiting an average of 20 minutes before seeing a doctor. The CDC reports that one in 31 hospital patients has at least one healthcare-associated infection (HAI) on any given day.
In times of coronavirus breakouts and the regular influenza season, there is an increased need for avoiding the spread of infections. While suspected carriers of the coronavirus are treated with extra care, many carriers don’t show symptoms, so the never-ending risk of getting infected from others in a waiting room continues.
One group of researchers (Beggs et al.) constructed a stochastic model to analyze the transmission of airborne infection in a hypothetical waiting area in which occupancy levels, waiting times, and ventilation rate could all be varied. The study showed that the number of new infection cases increased dramatically with waiting time. Likewise, the number of susceptible individuals in the room increased the number of new infection cases.
The authors concluded that when seeking to prevent the transmission of airborne viral disease the first thing to do is to minimize waiting times and the number of susceptible individuals present.
Digital care coordination platforms offer an easy, cost-effective way to do both.
Removing the Risk with Digital Innovation
I have recently spoken with several healthcare providers determined to improve exposure safety through digital care coordination.
One practice has had great success with the simple re-application of Blockit’s patient scheduling application in conjunction with our referral management platform. Both tools on their own mitigate exposure, but one large provider group decided to optimize their scheduling by combining both concepts.
Their goal was to reduce wait times for imaging and labs by “referring” the patient to our patient scheduling tool that is designed to ensure that patients are well staggered when going for their recommended image or lab.
The lab alone is processing hundreds of appointments per day. Through simple scheduling algorithms, we ensure that a great patient flow exists while making wait room exposure nearly non-existent.
The patient does all this through their web device, which also considerably reduces staff exposure. In some cases, this even reduces staff and further limits exposure risk among the support team.
Responsibly Getting and Keeping More Patients
I admittedly find it ironic that our own slogan of Get More, Keep More (patients) in itself is now part of the concern. Providers can no longer just “Get More or Keep More” without considering how to mitigate risks. Providers never had to consider this before, and it presents a new challenge for balancing administrative overhead.
Sophisticated scheduling automation is no longer just about convenience, cost, or brand play anymore. Well-integrated automation that facilitates those “touchpoints” is now a safety play. Add to the continuum other “conveniences” that now are critical safety prevention measures such as patient pre-registration, rescheduling, over the counter collections, and of course telehealth, and suddenly technology providers are no longer just facilitating clinical outcomes. They’re helping mitigate risks.
Convenience will always be a part of the digital care coordination story. I love sharing the quality of the experience that digital care coordination promises, but we are now at a whole new level where inconvenience can actually lead to contracting a dangerous virus.
Digital care coordination is no longer just a tool to accommodate the tech-savvy youth. It’s a way to keep the elderly and compromised safe. Wow. How things have changed.
Dave Gregorio is the Chief Customer Officer at Blockit and the author of the Purpose Quotient®, a nationally recognized framework for Organizational Development. A 30 year healthcare industry professional with a passion for people, Dave is the founder of the Heroes to Healthcare mission and CEO of ImPowerQ Associates LLC.