With our focus on privacy, confidentiality is paramount to medical facilities today. But when a nurse is shouting a patient’s name in the waiting room, they might as well be wearing a name tag. Can you say “HIPAA violation?”
We hate having our business broadcast to perfect strangers. And we hate even more waiting while it happens.
Keeping it private
Doctors’ offices and clinics are working to reduce both the privacy concerns and the anxiety we have in their waiting room.
For example, when Columbia Orthopaedic Group designed its new state-of-the-art facility in Missiouri, it re-examined its entire patient intake process. It found its old “bullhorn” approach to summoning patients suffered major flaws.
Beyond the privacy issues, it found many older patients couldn’t hear when nurses called their names. Often, patients would wander outside the reception area or leave the building altogether.
Now they give each patient a guest pager at check in. When it’s their turn to see the doctor, the patient gets a buzz instead of hearing their name shouted out. This increases their sense of privacy and reduces the chance of a HIPAA violation at the same time.
The pager system also allows the staff to track the patients’ individual wait times. The result? It helps them improve their own efficiency.
The wait is … off?
It’s not surprising that 90 percent of patients in the US report aggravation at the wait times before their appointments. A 2013 survey on wait-times by SoftwareAdvice shows as many as 41 percent of those will consider treatment by another doctor as a result.
And it isn’t always the patient that’s waiting. Think of a surgical center or an emergency room. In both cases, it’s family and friends doing the waiting for the patient to get out of surgery and into the recovery room.
If these centers could find a way to let visitors know how long the wait is going to be, it would free them from the waiting room and allow them to step outside the facility while they waited.
Forward-thinking facilities like Children’s National Medical Center in Washington DC are doing something about that. Back in 2012, they partnered with a software development team to develop a pilot program that sent canned text messages to a patient’s family. Those messages told them when the patient was in surgery, in the recovery room or ready for visitors.
Since then, a variety of sophisticated paging solutions have emerged. Some send text messages to mobile phones, while others use paging devices with small screens that don’t interfere with hospital equipment.
Coming to a doctor’s office near you
You can never anticipate – or eliminate – delays in medical care. Whether in a small clinic or a major hospital, they happen.
But you can address your patients’ worries while they’re waiting.
Let patients know about delays as they happen. Keep them informed about approximate wait times so they can do something besides sitting in your waiting room. And notify visitors when their loved ones go into surgery, come out of surgery and are ready for company.
Waiting on the doctor doesn’t have to be so painful.
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Michelle Strong is chief marketing officer at LRS and an advocate for meaningful customer engagement.