Sitting in a waiting room with others during this season of Coronavirus outbreak is a very high risk, particularly for those with a questioned immune system.
As we come to terms with Covid-19, most of us are still caught off guard apart from the medical industry, which is now tasked with two primary objectives: to get the cure for Covid-19 and control the spread of this deadly virus.
None of these goals is easy to achieve. The pandemic has dealt the healthcare personnel a significant blow with multiple shifts, working overtime, and stress being the new normal to the health providers.
How to Reduce Wait Times in Hospitals
To support the purpose and help the health workers to be most effective, we have come up with a list of methods of what hospitals should do to help manage patient care, provide safe queueing, reduce the cost, and keep the hospital staff’s stress level to the minimum and reduce the spread of Coronavirus.
Read through the post to find out ways of reducing wait times to stop Coronavirus’s spread while still providing the necessary health services without compromise.
Remove the lines and replace them with the virtual sign-in and queueing
Start the first thing, hospitals should empty their waiting rooms to create fewer opportunities for the virus to spread. Implementing virtual queues is a perfect way of preventing patients from waiting physically in the lobby.
Create a smartphone queue app or an online patient portal where they can fill a form and submit their information to the physician in advance.
Once the patients’ information is received, they will start getting notifications. SMS alerts inform them of their current queue status or any delays if one is experienced. When your hospital staff is ready to call them, patients can reach the facility to receive the required care.
Meanwhile, before their turn reaches and is called to the health facility, the patients can wait safely in their cars or homes.
Virtual queueing helps control attendance and crowds in waiting areas and lobbies. Still, it gives you the convenience of knowing the status of your queue.
Eventually, online self-scheduling promotes social distancing and minimizes the contagion hence reducing the spread of Coronavirus.
Manage check-ins and peak hours
You cannot control patients crowding the hospital even during this pandemic season without setting a perfect queue management system.
The ultimate objective should be to reduce the number of patients waiting in the lobby at one particular time and avoid the backlog of waiting patients.
A digital check-in platform helps the patients to register themselves at their speed, removing the need for physical lines. Similar to virtual queueing, patients provide vital information allowing the physician to prepare the treatment in advance.
Remember to continually disinfect the screens of the sign-in kiosks with alcohol-based wipes as patients touch them regularly. Consider also giving all the patients hand rubs.
Since your safety and that of the patient needs to be given the utmost priority, it is recommended that the hospital use a contactless patient management system instead. For instance, having a patient use a money card when paying or scan a QR code to enter a queue.
The major advantage of an automated queueing process is that it saves time by delegating extra duties. Controlling check-in manually is very disruptive as handling appointments over the phone.
And talking of phones…
Replace the phone work with SMS messaging
If you have been given an appointment with a doctor, you have probably received an appointment reminder call. This is always a standard hospital procedure to ensure minimum absence or to communicate any delay experienced.
However, this method has not proven reliable as it was initially thought.
These days, more and more health facilities usually text the patients instead of calling them. This reliability of text messaging should be the new norm due to its convenience to both parties.
The information relayed via a phone call can easily be misunderstood or forgotten, while text messages can be kept for reference and follow-up.
Furthermore, the call may be made during an inappropriate time and not reach the patient. Everybody has missed one or several calls because of loud music, being in a noisy area, the phone being on silent mode, or when taking a shower.
On the contrary, text messages, as long as they are sent in advance, you can reply to them in your own time. Eliminating phone work has proved to save time, not only for the hospital staff but also for the patients.
Provide telemedicine during the Corona pandemic
The other option for virtual queueing and sign-in is the use of virtual visits through telemedicine solutions. Handling patients over a distance also helps control Coronavirus’s spread, hence reducing the chances of further infection.
Telehealth solutions allow people to talk to a doctor or a nurse online to get guidance and know whether they need to seek a professional diagnosis or not. Doing this allows the patient to be monitored safely at home, avoiding the risk of being exposed to crowded lobbies.
In case there is a need to be physically examined or get tested, the facility and the staff will get enough time to prepare for the patient’s arrival. They will also get things like the isolation room and necessary protective gear ready and take staff through the required safety protocols.
Using virtual treatment can help in reducing wait times to stop the spread of Coronavirus. It also allows the physician some free time to use in handling less severe cases remotely.
Use surveys to check slow spots in patient care
What patients say about the services they get matters a lot. 61% of healthcare providers have, at one point, had a negative feedback about wait times from their patients. However, if all the patients are given a chance, this number can increase.
Getting their opinions on the matter is more than putting yourself in their position. Patients’ feedback can help you identify the speed bumps and the vital bottlenecks in the patient treatment process.
Have a track of every patients’ timeframe from their arrival time to their departure time in every area they visited. Capture the information from the reception, exam room, or laboratory to the prescription room to get the exact picture of the patients’ journey.
Creating a digital checking system helps with streamlining this communication process. When patients are allowed to voice their opinions more comfortably and confidently, it can lead to more truthful and straightforward insights on the slow spots within your system.
Support and involvement of all medical clinic executive members
Most importantly, the hospital must develop steady support and involvement of their administrative and management teams.
Cultural change should occur from top to bottom. It is essential that the leadership support the various decisions made to reduce wait time in their facility. The hospital management also controls the budgets and can divert funds towards ensuring the measures are sustained.
Involving the executives in the processes also gives the junior staff morale and trust of the viability of the measures put in place to control the spread of Covid-19.
Benefits of reduced wait times in the hospital
Apart from preventing the spread of the Coronavirus, reducing wait times in hospitals and healthcare facilities has many benefits, both for the patients and the providers.
To the patients, reduced wait time leaves them satisfied and happy: this will promote the hospital’s name, which in turn translates to high income for the hospital.
Reduced wait time also allows the medical staff to handle tasks with ease and more efficiently, hence reducing the backlog of jobs. Additionally, it streamlines the appointment process allowing patients and the medical providers enough time to plan for the meeting.
Most importantly, during this Coronavirus wave, it reduces the chance of spreading the virus, limiting the infection rates. It protects both the medical staff and the patients.
Long wait times for the essential outpatient services in most health facilities followed by slow and short consultations have always been a major complaint among patients.
Reducing the wait times in hospitals to zero may not be an achievable goal. However, with the current Covid-19 pandemic, it is vital to have serious deliberations on healthcare protocols and practices.
Another option for making things move faster is by setting fixed multi-disciplinary treatment procedures for patients who fall into a particular medical description.
For instance, for chronic illnesses such as abdominal pains, chest pains, or head problems, it is better to have special treatment protocols. These should include the nursing procedures, doctor’s orders, and recommended laboratory tests and other tools.
Depending on the method your hospital or clinic chooses, the most important thing is to ensure that the patient and everybody around, including the staff, are safe. Leverage on the above ways of reducing wait times to stop the spread of Coronavirus.