As more and more countries begin to open up following COVID-19 lockdowns, there is a growing need to control the number of people inside buildings. Our Virtual Queue system, originally designed for retailers, can also be applied to many other environments.

We’re all having to accept that the post-COVID world will be different for some time. We won’t be going “back to normal” any time soon, if ever. We need to find new ways of doing things we’ve always taken for granted, and technology can help make that transition easier for businesses and consumers.

Earlier this week, I wrote about how we’re planning to deploy it for municipal services such as city halls and leisure facilities. I’d like to look now at how Virtual Queue can be used in healthcare.

What is Virtual Queue?

Virtual Queue (VQ) allows stores or other locations to control the number of people within the building and reduce the number of people waiting in line using a virtual pre-booking and queuing system. Customers add themselves to the queue using their mobile phone, and can either schedule an appointment time or take the next available slot. They are informed via SMS or push notificatio n of the expected wait time and can then wait safely in their car or at home instead of standing outside in proximity to other people. They receive a second message when it is their turn to enter the location. Optionally, owners can set a time limit for customers in order to keep the line moving, and VQ will notify them when their time is up and they need to leave.

With most countries, states and cities imposing strict occupancy limits, it is essential for businesses to be able to demonstrate compliance with all local and national regulations. Staff also have access to VQ via phone or tablet. They can check people in and out, monitor the number of people in the building, and ensure that the virtual line keeps moving. We are currently developing automated sensor-based systems to help with this task. All Grid data is easily viewed in a dashboard which allows owners to track and analyze customer behaviour.

Built on MS Azure, MS Teams and the Ombori Grid platform, Virtual Queue is enterprise ready and can be deployed in a matter of days. It is a fully cloud-based solution which requires no existing infrastructure or hardware. It can be used either as a stand-alone solution or integrated with other Grid components to offer more options. For example, VQ can be integrated with digital signage that displays the current queue position.

Virtual Queue for Healthcare

Safe access to healthcare is critical, and often cannot be postponed. But healthcare facilities are already some of the highest risk places for spreading disease. Hospitals and doctors’ offices are filled with sick people, often in very close proximity to one another. Many of them are already susceptible to infection, either because of age or an existing condition. People need to be reassured that doctors, dentists and hospitals are doing all they can to minimize the likelihood of catching the virus.

The most obvious application of Virtual Queue is to reduce the number of people in waiting rooms, particularly for routine appointments. Many medical procedures can be unpredictable, so there’s no guarantee that patients can be seen exactly at their scheduled appointment time. And, with enhanced cleaning procedures between each patient, appointments can be delayed even further. As a result, patients are often obliged to wait for a long time.

One of the easiest ways for healthcare providers to manage occupancy is to minimize walk-ins. Easy online booking ensures that most patients will only visit when they have a pre-booked appointment. While this is not practical for all situations, it will work for the majority of routine visits.

Instead of checking in at the reception desk and then waiting in a crowded room, patients can check in online or via a QR code on a digital display at the entrance. They can then wait in their car or at home if they live close by. When the doctor is ready to see them, they will be notified via SMS that they should come in. They can then be seen right away without having to sit in the waiting room.

This simple process can benefit a wide range of different medical practitioners.

  • General practitioners
  • Hospital outpatient departments
  • Specialist services
  • Dentists
  • Opticians
  • Chiropractors and other alternative health practitioners

Virtual Queue can also be used to increase safety on wards during visiting hours. Most hospitals operate a simple policy of allowing visitors during specific hours. However, in order to reduce the risk of infection to patients, staff, and visitors, some restrictions may be needed.

Using a virtual queueing system will allow hospitals to restrict the number of visitors to each patient, which will reduce the number of people in the ward. Instead of operating on a first-come first-served basis, hospitals can choose to implement time limits and appointment times for visits. This will ensure that even if visits have to be made shorter, patients will still be able to spend some time with their loved ones.

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