Waiting in line at a healthcare facility is a common source of anxiety. Not knowing how long it will take to see the doctor and feeling uncomfortable around other sick people can worsen the situation. Today, innovative tech companies have found a way for healthcare providers to manage patients and alleviate the stress of sitting in a waiting room via queue management software.
These solutions leverage the digital world to enhance a patient’s experience and improve backend operations for healthcare providers.
What is Queue Management Software?
Queue management software helps businesses manage queues by reducing wait times—solutions such as Ombori Grid Queue Management help reduce lines and improve the overall customer experience.
When used as a noun, the word queue refers to a line of people. It can also be used as a verb, meaning to wait. Thus, people in a queue are waiting for something – to purchase tickets to an event, check out items at a grocery store, or consult with their healthcare provider.
Traditionally, businesses have used queue management software to manage in-person lines. Today, however, companies – including doctors’ offices and clinics – use this type of technology to manage both in-person and virtual lines.
A virtual queue is “a customizable solution that allows stores, offices, and other locations to control the number of people within the building and reduce the number of people waiting in line using a virtual queuing system.” Instead of waiting in an actual line for their turn, customers become part of a virtual queue and continue conducting business as usual while waiting. When it is their turn, they are notified via cell phone.
How Does a QMS Work in Healthcare?
Virtual queueing is made possible through a queue management system (QMS), a digital solution that makes waiting in line easier, safer, and less stressful for customers.
In a healthcare setting, patients can check-in digitally via a mobile app or a barcode within the office or clinic. They are then notified about their place in line (if the feature is available) and prompted to wait for their appointment. They can wait in a place of comfort, such as in their car or at a local cafe. Once it is their turn, they are prompted to proceed to the check-in area via text or SMS.
By digitizing this process, the staff is able to collect pertinent data that can be used to improve, if not eliminate, queues altogether. A QMS can analyze the following data:
- Customer population
- Method of arrival (in groups or individually), the timing of arrival, and customer distribution
- Service mechanisms (including whether separate queues are available for each service)
- Customer behavior while in the queue
The way patients behave and how providers interact with them is critical to improving the patient experience and streamlining the process for busy office staff.
5 Benefits of Using a QMS in Healthcare
By adopting the Ombori Grid Queue Management solution, healthcare facilities can enjoy a number of benefits:
- 1. Fewer patient complaints: A QMS provides patients with timely updates and notifies them when to move to the front of the queue. A fast and efficient check-in process enables patients to feel empowered and in control of their time, thereby reducing the number of complaints due to scheduling issues.
2. Increased staff productivity: A QMS allows healthcare staff to schedule appointments, manage lines, and even guide patients to less busy times of the day. Managers can ensure they are using resources, including staff and equipment, effectively and efficiently. As a result, healthcare providers are better equipped to deliver optimal service to patients.
3. Improved image: Healthcare facilities are busy places – and typically not the most popular place to visit. Offices can be chaotic, and doctors often run behind schedule, which can result in patient frustration. Effective use of a QMS can eliminate these issues by improving office efficiencies, which, in turn, enhances the overall image of the facility and its physicians.
4. Enhanced tracking and evaluation of employee and management performance: Patients are not the only ones frustrated by long lines and crowded waiting areas. Medical staff also feel the pressure to keep traffic flowing, while managers hate to see expensive resources sit idle. When morale is low, performance often suffers. A QMS can assist healthcare providers with improving their performance by quickly finding process flaws and developing an appropriate plan of action.
5. Streamlined services and communication: A QMS provides bi-directional communication between office staff and patients waiting in line. Patients receive timely updates throughout their wait, which allows them to control their expectations and reduce their frustration. They can request more time, ask for a status update, or leave the line altogether based on the updates.
Queue Management Systems Within Healthcare Facilities
Queue management solutions have long been used in the healthcare sector, although their presence has been somewhat limited. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, professionals across the industry have come to rely more heavily on such technology. In the face of shutdowns and social distancing restrictions, these systems have provided solutions to new and unique challenges posed by the pandemic. Unfortunately, some of these challenges are likely to continue well into the future. Here are some of the benefits of using a QMS in a healthcare setting:
- It permits patients to check-in remotely, away from the healthcare facility. People have the freedom to choose where they wait, allowing them to avoid overcrowded offices and minimizing the risk of coming into contact with other sick patients.
- It allows providers to limit the number of patients within an office at any given time, further enhancing patients’ confidence in the provider’s ability to protect their health and safety.
- It assists front-desk staff in organizing and managing appointments more efficiently, thus maximizing the number of patients seen at a location and minimizing the waste of expensive resources.
- It helps to reduce the stress level of both patients and staff in the office. When staff is allowed to focus more on the patient experience and less on crowd control, both feel greater satisfaction.
- It offers resources when staff is limited. A QMS provides real-time reporting and analytics for critical decision-making, such as anticipating peak periods to optimize staff productivity or request additional help.
- It improves patient flow. Healthcare providers can help patients navigate their medical journey quickly and effectively. Patients can join a virtual queue via text message, app, website, kiosk, or phone – whatever method is easiest for them. In addition, providers can turn no-shows into on-time appointments by allowing patients to move backward in line if they need more time.
The growing number of benefits provided by queue management systems has led more healthcare providers to leverage this technology. Here are some of the most common places to find a QMS:
Emergency Room Usage
Emergency rooms were one of the hardest-hit places during the COVID-19 pandemic. As people became infected – or feared they were infected – many rushed to the ER. Until queue management systems were set in place, many ERs were overwhelmed by the number of patients they were treating.
With the implementation of queue management systems, things have changed. A QMS allows ERs to organize patients, process paperwork online, and streamline their overall processes. Instead of focusing on administrative work, staff can quickly access anyone who is possibly ill with COVID and isolate them accordingly. As a result, ERs have experienced expedited processing and smaller queues – a benefit that cannot be overlooked even in a post-pandemic world.
Physicians’ Offices and Outpatient Service Usage
Waiting to be seen in a healthcare setting is frustrating. While most offices require an appointment, they do not tend to see patients at their scheduled time. Instead, patients must wait in designated areas, increasing their anxiety about the upcoming visit.
Queue management systems have resolved this issue by reducing, if not eliminating, queues in many healthcare settings. By leveraging various solutions, practitioners can streamline the patient experience and improve overall care. Queue management solutions, such as Ombori Grid
- provide booking software to ensure proper scheduling;
- allow patients to complete paperwork online, reducing administrative work upon arrival;
- permit patients to check-in virtually;
- offer patients the ability to wait outside the office; and
- expedite the patient experience.
Queue Management Software: Now Essential
In the past, patients have often felt powerless in managing their healthcare experience. Today, however, they can get that control back by utilizing a QMS. What was once a preference has now become an expectation for many patients.
They want the ability to schedule, manage, and wait for their turn or appointment remotely. Through a QMS, they can check-in via several channels and queue where they choose. During their wait, they receive updates about their place in line and the forecasted wait time. These informative status notifications improve the patient’s experience by setting realistic expectations while also empowering healthcare staff to be more efficient: a win-win situation for both parties.
Björn is Chief Experience Officer of Ombori Grid. He spent the early part of his career in the music business before moving into retail design and video production. His passion is for creating unique and memorable retail experiences that excite and delight customers. He spent 6 years at Visual Art in Stockholm before joining Ombori in 2018.