A friend told me the story of a routine visit to the family doctor’s modern new hospital high-rise. Among many other features, he was surprised to find the reception area was stocked with a dozen tablet computers for patients to use while they waited to see the doctor.
The heavy-duty tablets opened to a dedicated website and authoritative medical content—something akin to WebMD—which seemed like an open invitation to research the health or healthcare issue of his choice. Waiting for the doctor turned out to be a digital “teachable moment.”
It turns out that a typical visit to a medical practice office includes about 20 minutes of “waiting,” versus six to 12 minutes of actual face time with the doctor.
For patient-centered offices, the label “waiting room” is at least mildly insensitive to a positive patient experience. Yes, we know—the widely-used PC- (and PX-) preferred term is “reception area.” But “waiting” is what mostly happens there.
And, with the proliferation of smart-devices, about one in five mobile-enabled patients use their wait time to research health related topics, often related to the reason for their visit.
A survey by CDMiConnect, reports Physician’s Weekly, that those “[patients] who used their mobile devices in the waiting room reported they felt better prepared (82 percent) and more confident (78 percent) for the conversation [with their provider]. They also understood their condition better (80 percent), which could even lead to better outcomes.”
Seizing the teachable moment…
The perfect-world solution for optimum patient satisfaction, of course, would be to minimize or eliminate any waiting–and concerned physicians and staff members make valiant efforts toward that goal.
That said, practice managers and marketing executives recognize that any (inevitable) waiting is a “marketing touch point,” and an opportunity to provide useful and timely healthcare information. (What’s more, the individual’s perception is that the wait seems shorter.)
The traditional technique was the brochure display rack of patient education pamphlets, each devoted to a particular medical condition or procedure. An update to that became a television set that presented a health or medical channel.
Now, free WiFi is the standard, and digital and computer-enabled options reach out to each individual and seize the teachable moment (or minutes) with the patient in the reception area:
Provide touch-screen tablets. As described briefly above, the immediate availability of a device—perhaps an iPad or similar—as well as the connection to specific health information leverages the opportunity for informative marketing content.
Use technology for patient check-in. Touch screens and other digital check-in devices enhance office efficiency, and can provide condition-specific, and authoritative, information. Systems can immediately display timely information or, on request, send it digitally to the individual’s mobile device that they are likely to be using in the waiting area.
Display posters with QR Codes. Only a few facilities have created their own dedicated-purpose app for consumer/patients. For other situations, reception areas can display information that advises the patient of the online address (URL) for information, providing a quick-connect QR Code (Quick Response) image.
The CDMiConnect survey reveals that patients often use waiting room time to look online for relevant information, and “healthcare communicators can help inform and educate patients exactly when their interest is high and the message is most helpful. It enhances the quality of care and the patient experience.