How does a virtual waiting room work?
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a boom in telemedicine and the emergence of new telehealth technologies. According to Grand View Search, the telehealth market share growth will reach $298.9 billion by 2028.
Delivering patient healthcare in a digital environment has grown in popularity as a way to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but telehealth technology is expected to continue to grow beyond the pandemic. The healthcare industry has embraced a larger telemedicine presence; remote services are easy for patients to use while allowing healthcare professionals to communicate and diagnose medical issues without seeing patients in a traditional in-person setting.
One of the ways telemedicine is changing healthcare is by introducing virtual waiting rooms, which allow patients to check in for appointments, complete paperwork, and receive instructions virtually. Here’s an overview of virtual waiting room technology and what healthcare providers and clinicians need to know about setting up a virtual waiting room.
What is a virtual waiting room?
Virtual waiting rooms allow patients to check in for virtual appointments; they mimic the experience of meeting an office staff member when patients visit their doctor’s office. While virtual waiting rooms are an ideal resource when a patient is waiting for a virtual medical appointment, they are also a way for patients to receive instructions and safety protocols before an in-person visit.
Virtual waiting rooms reduce the time patients spend inside doctor’s offices, minimizing the chances of infecting others – or becoming infected – with COVID-19. Beyond safety concerns, virtual waiting rooms are an excellent telehealth visit resource that guides the registration process and notifies patients when providers are ready to begin the visit.
Many medical settings are rolling out virtual waiting rooms, including traditional doctors’ offices that need a way for patients to check in, as well as emergency rooms and urgent care centers, who use virtual waiting rooms to allow patients to wait in their car until a provider is ready to see them.
How do virtual waiting rooms work?
According to data from Grand View Research, virtual waiting rooms are part of a more comprehensive telemedicine solution. Real-time telemedicine occurs when there is contact between the patient and the healthcare professional using digital media such as video conferencing.
This level of medical care – also known as synchronous telemedicine – involves multiple applications working in tandem to provide a simple telephone conversation capable of treating patients and performing complex procedures and analyses.
telemedicine provider Relative says virtual waiting rooms – also known as curbside check-in, mobile waiting rooms or contactless waiting rooms – are a “sustainable strategy” to replace the waiting room experience for patients in telehealth and in the office.
Components of a virtual waiting room
Well-built virtual waiting rooms require these elements:
- A welcome message
- Clear steps for the patient to follow to see the provider (in person or virtually)
- A method to contact staff for assistance with communication or navigation issues
- A way to check in from mobile devices
- The ability for patients to check their cameras and microphones
According to the telehealth solutions company Suppliertech, there are various ways to implement a virtual waiting room solution using SMS and HIPAA-compliant chatbots to facilitate the remote check-in process.
Before the appointment, the provider often sends a link by SMS to the patients inviting them to join the virtual waiting room. After clicking the link and filling out the required digital forms, patients will proceed to a virtual queue. The system will alert them when the supplier is ready to see them.
Advantages of virtual waiting rooms
Virtual waiting rooms offer a host of benefits to medical providers and patients in addition to the obvious benefit of contactless patient check-in to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infections. Here are some other benefits of the virtual waiting room, according to data from Providertech.
1. They provide a patient-friendly experience in a comfortable environment.
In-person waiting rooms are often filled with sick people who have runny noses and coughs; there may also be crying children and other distractions. Virtual environments eliminate these risks and stressors.
Patients waiting to be seen for a virtual appointment enjoy peace and quiet in an environment that is neither overwhelming nor stressful. If the doctor or clinician is late, the wait is shorter.
There are also advantages to using a virtual waiting room before an in-person appointment. It allows patients to stay in their homes or vehicles, where they can control temperature and noise levels. While they wait, they can read, make calls, work on a laptop, surf the web, or do whatever they want to pass the time. The virtual queue keeps them informed of their waiting time so they never wonder how long they will have to wait.
The process of filling out required documents and payment information for accurate medical billing is more relaxed and enjoyable from the comfort of patients’ homes or vehicles, leaving patients with stress-free and more positive interactions with staff when treating with their health care providers.
2. Virtual waiting rooms facilitate privacy and security.
The traditional waiting room is sorely lacking in privacy, especially when patients are filling out sensitive documents or registration forms. Providertech points out that virtual waiting rooms eliminate privacy concerns because these systems use HIPAA-compliant technology that allows healthcare providers to securely collect necessary information about health conditions.
Virtual waiting rooms are generally easy to access, as patients do not have to log into an account with a password. Instead, they will confirm their identity through the virtual waiting room’s two-factor authentication system tied to their phone number.
3. Automation saves time and money.
Virtual waiting rooms allow for easy automation of everything from appointment reminders to patient check-in. By automating routine tasks, medical practice staff can focus on more important tasks.
Providertech also points out that virtual waiting rooms integrate text messaging with customizable templates to issue appointment reminders, confirmations and more. This feature speeds up the check-in process and effortlessly syncs patient data to their medical records. If patients need help, these texts can incorporate a help function that triggers a phone call from the practice staff.
Disadvantages of virtual waiting rooms
Although virtual waiting rooms offer a host of conveniences and benefits, they are not without challenges. Here are some disadvantages of virtual waiting rooms.
1. Virtual waiting rooms lack emergency plans.
Virtual environments sometimes lack contingency plans if healthcare providers or patients encounter personal emergencies. According to the telemedicine booking system Yocale, unforeseen issues could arise with the appointment, with office staff having to manually contact patients to notify them of the delays. This element could raise new problems instead of solving current problems.
2. Virtual waiting rooms have limited functionality.
Yocale points out that virtual waiting rooms have limited capacities, so there may be delays linking prescriptions to a patient’s record. In a virtual environment, depending on the solution and software you use, it may be less efficient to ask the important and unique questions that healthcare providers and clinics want to ask in advance.
3. There may be system errors and internet connection issues.
Virtual waiting room experiences can frustrate patients, who may find the technology difficult and inconvenient. Yocale’s research shows nuances in digital software and applications that can lead to system glitches and errors that can confuse and frustrate patients. Additionally, for virtual waiting rooms to work, patients need a strong internet connection with adequate speeds, and providers need professional broadband.
Virtual Waiting Rooms Serve the Public and Healthcare Providers
The pandemic has ignited the telemedicine industry and new telehealth technologies. Virtual waiting rooms serve the public with vital functions. Healthcare providers and clinicians need to partner with the best telemedicine software vendors so they can continue to strengthen their systems and deliver a consistent, convenient, and accessible experience.