From telehealth to remote patient monitoring and virtual waiting rooms, COVID-19 has helped drive the adoption of new technologies in healthcare.
For example, I recently took my son to the doctor. I printed and completed the paperwork in advance, arriving 15 minutes early and calling the office as instructed. They sent me to voicemail, so I left a message and waited — 5 minutes went by, then 10. I tried calling but was dropped into voicemail again and again. Finally, at the appointment time, we masked up and went in to let the office know we had arrived.
There has to be a better way.
To get a better understanding of what virtual waiting rooms (VWRs) mean for patients and providers, I sat down with Dave Dyell of Jellyfish Health, a company that has offered virtual waiting room technology since well before the pandemic, for his perspective on how the technology and market are evolving.
What is a virtual waiting room?
Dave: The virtual waiting room allows patients to wait for an appointment somewhere other than a physical waiting room — such as a car, a park, or at home. Of course, with COVID-19, the ability to digitally shift the waiting experience out of the physical building is more important than ever to keep staff and patients safe and to comply with protocols.
Patients are hesitant to spend time in a physical office, plus they want the convenience of digital communication. When they are ready to check in, they simply text a response to the provider or click a link, either via text or email, to notify them.
What does the virtual waiting room mean for the patient experience?
Dave: Overall, the VWR brings the healthcare check-in experience closer to what patients are familiar with outside of healthcare, like their experiences with online retail and the airlines. With COVID, patients might not feel safe waiting inside even if they are practicing social distancing. And even with the most communicative staff, patients are left outside of the building, wondering if their provider forgot about them. VWRs can integrate estimated wait times to give patients an awareness of where they are in line and recreate that sense of movement that you get in a traditional waiting room where you can see people being called back and then finishing up their appointments.
Patients receive a check-in notification about an hour before the visit, which reminds them of things they need to do before they come, like bringing a mask or completing a form. The reminder asks them to stay in their car and click a link when they arrive, which in turn notifies front office staff of their arrival and adds the patient to the queue.
How do providers benefit?
Dave: Everything integrates into the provider’s existing workflow, including many EMRs, to create a streamlined experience for the front office. Additionally, VWRs free up the staff to get more done with fewer interruptions such as patients checking in or asking how much longer their wait will be.
Still, providers want more than a smooth check-in process. They are interested in payment processes too, which is why we offer functionality like a text-to-pay link for patients to handle copay and other pre-service payments. Providers also want self-service for consent forms and ID uploads so that the entire registration process can now happen in the car or at home.
What does the future of Virtual Waiting Rooms look like?
Dave: Before COVID-19, the VWR was all about consumerism and giving patients that retail-like experience. The tech was mostly adopted by only the most progressive provider groups and health systems. Now, it is not just about convenience; it is also about safety and following state or CDC guidelines.
Once consumers see the way this technology shapes the patient experience into one that is more similar to retail, they will not want to go back. With the efficiency gains and a more positive patient experience, providers will not want to go back either.
About the Author
Trish founded Eliciting Insights in 2015 to bring quality market feedback to healthcare companies. Trish is committed to helping companies identify and translate customer pain points into actionable solution roadmaps that generate high revenue while preserving budget dollars.