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How Telemedicine Can Improve the Reputation of the Waiting Room

Patients, physicians and hospital staff alike can agree that the waiting room is not typically a positive experience for patients. According to a survey conducted by the design and development firm Sequence, 85 percent of patients reported that they wait anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes past their scheduled appointment times until they see their physicians. Patients consider this to be valuable time that's put to waste and in many cases, their levels of anxiety exacerbate.

While new organizational methods and procedural changes can help get the waiting room in great shape, telemedicine has proved it can help healthcare organizations diminish the long waits and frustrations that patients experience. Here's how telemedicine can improve the reputation of the waiting room:

Shorter wait times

Patients shouldn't have to set aside extra time just to wait in the facility before seeing a physician. With telehealth services, hospitals and doctors' offices alike can utilize virtual platforms to see patients online. Many times, healthcare concerns can be quickly addressed with a simple online visit instead of making the patient come into the facility for care.

Fourteen hospitals in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota agree, according to a study conducted by University of Iowa researchers. They found that these hospitals, all of which used telemedicine services, reduced patient wait times by an average of six minutes in comparison to those facilities that didn't use the technology. In over 40 percent of the telemedicine encounters, the remote providers were 14 minutes earlier than local providers.

More patients served

Likewise, using telehealth services can make doctors more accessible to patients. Telehealth technology allows doctors and specialists to spend less time transitioning between patients and more importantly, the ability to offer care during off-hours, Telehealth solutions can prevent late arrivals and no shows, eliminate time needed to travel to the office visit, and improve the efficiencies of documenting patient information.

According to the Washington Post, Kaiser Permanente reported 21 percent of its 110 million patient interactions in 2015 were e-visits. Officials there predict that by 2020, e-visits will exceed in-person visits.

Better outcomes for chronic disease patients

Patients living with chronic diseases don't have time to waste in waiting rooms. Many of them need prescriptions and access to a specialist as quickly as possible. Using telemedicine encounter management software and related devices, a remote specialist can quickly assess the patient, diagnose and prescribe if needed. Telehealth allows chronic disease patients to be managed properly and avoids downfall in their health.

Avoiding the waiting room when it’s not necessary

In 2018 it was reported that between 2012 and 2016, the average price for an outpatient emergency room visit rose 31 percent to $1,917 (shown in a recent Health Care Cost Institute report).  With these rising costs, healthcare organizations are looking at new delivery models that enable them to provide more efficient care and triage clinical presentations that do not require an in person visit. 

As noted in a study by Truven Health Analytics, 71% of emergency room visits are unnecessary and avoidable.  Virtual care platforms are the perfect fit to manage many of these patients that don’t need to be seen in person, but still need medical attention and consultation.

Conclusion

Change is also being made on the reimbursements side - CMS made a series of suggestions to expand telehealth in its latest Medicare Physician Fee to include a $14 payment for virtual care visits to reduce unnecessary office and ER visits and also decrease exacerbation of clinical conditions

As noted, utilizing telehealth doesn't only provide better access to quality care - it can also reduce time spent in the waiting room. This enhances your organization’s reputation and helps patients feel better about scheduling an appointment in the future.

About the Author

Ron Emerson's picture

Ron Emerson, RN, BSN, is the global director of strategic and partner development for AMD Global Telemedicine. With more than 20 years of experience in the health care industry, Emerson is recognized as a thought leader in telemedicine, having developed a variety of innovative telehealth applications, consulting on telehealth deployments worldwide. He is a former member of the Board of Directors for the American Telemedicine Association, Chair of the Industry Council and a previous recipient of the American Telemedicine Association Industry Council Award.


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