Patient wait times? An app for that too

November 12, 2014 in Medical Technology

Time is the ultimate commodity. That’s why physicians and healthcare systems should strive to take a patient’s time into consideration.

The Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), in fact, warns that patient wait times are “a strong predictor of overall satisfaction,” and central to the care experience component of the triple aim of better individual care leading to healthier populations at a lower overall cost.

“With medical quality an assumed `given,’ people today gravitate toward service providers who know what patients want and align their practice patterns and work processes to deliver caring service along with the very best medical care,” the organization explained in an advisory to its members.

Alex Bäcker, CEO and co-founder of QLess, a Pasadena, Calif.-based mobile wait time management company, said he is surprised by how much wait time figures into online provider ratings.

Bäcker will be joined by other industry experts to discuss patient engagement on Monday, Dec. 8, during a session of the mHealth Summit 2014.

QLess claims to have “liberated” more than 20 million people across multiple industries, saving them  more than 700 years worth of time that otherwise would have been spent waiting in line. For QLess and other queue managemeent vendors such as NoWait, a considerable chunk of that stems from cutting wait times in restaurants, but QLess sees healthcare waiting rooms as ripe for improvement.

For hospitals that want to consider mobile apps that control wait times, there are a few things to consider, according to Bäcker:

  • Get a platform that covers all forms of communication, because some older patients won’t know how to text but will know how to make a phone call.
  • Get a platform that’s interactive and updated in real-time, so that patients are told if a doctor is running late – and if they’re running late they can push themselves back in the wait list and be automatically replaced with other patients.
  • Make sure the platform allows the opportunity to engage patients while they wait for the visit and after their visit.
  • Use predictive summoning to ensure that the doctor is not stuck waiting for patients.
  • Allow patients to select their own time for advance notice, because not everybody needs the same time to get to the doctor’s office.
  • Have accurate wait forecasts, because that’s been proven to quadruple the probability that a customer will return.

“Time is more valuable than ever and patients are increasingly used to not having to wait,” Bäcker said, adding that providers with short wait times jump from mediocre ratings to top ratings while “providers who don’t engage their patients simply won’t see as many patients coming their way.”

The mHealth Summit 2014 runs from Dec. 7-11 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center just outside Washington, D.C. Register here.

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