Systems related to patient visitation within healthcare facilities have long gone unchanged. However, as the world faced the COVID-19 pandemic, processes evolved and healthcare establishments were forced to implement new visitor management systems to protect the health and safety of patients, staff, and visitors. Now, as we transition into a post-COVID-19 environment, many of the technologies leveraged during this crisis are here to stay.
What Are Visitor Management Systems?
Visitor management systems are digital solutions that track visitors entering a specific location. They help streamline processes while collecting data to help businesses improve their operations.
In the hospital and healthcare landscape, common visitor management solutions include people counters, occupancy control tools, queue management systems, appointment booking solutions, and digital signage.
5 Benefits of Visitor Management Systems in Hospitals
Visitor management systems provide many benefits to hospitals and other healthcare facilities:
- Adhering to COVID protocols: Social distancing was mandatory throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to help reduce the risk of transmission of the virus. Visitor management systems allowed individuals to maintain this distance while feeling safe in hospital settings.
- Maintaining health and safety standards: Specific policies are established in hospitals to help protect the health and safety of all persons on the premises. Visitor management systems work together to ensure locations are adhering to state and local standards.
- Guaranteeing patient safety: Not all visitors are welcome in a hospital setting, and visitor management systems help facilities restrict people from entering their buildings while also helping ensure patient and staff safety.
- Reducing overcrowding: Specific visitor management systems are used to monitor people entering and exiting a location. Through this technology, hospitals and other healthcare facilities can reduce the risk of overcrowding while also decreasing the risk of disease transmission.
- Ensuring HIPAA compliance: The Health and Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was signed into law in 1996 to help protect patients’ rights. HIPAA rules and regulations consist of three major components: privacy rules, security rules, and breach notification rules. Complying with HIPAA standards is essential for healthcare facilities, and visitor management systems aid hospitals in meeting these standards.
How Technology Transforms the Healthcare Industry?
Some tools are more conducive to managing visitors in a healthcare setting than others. Here are some of the most popular technologies used by hospitals today:
People counters track visitor footfall in real-time, helping hospitals meet occupancy regulations, make data-driven decisions, and optimize staff planning. This technology uses cameras to count people entering and leaving a location without any human intervention. Visitors can leave through more than one doorway, and the people counter automatically tallies the total number of individuals in the building.
People counter technology is "a great way to ensure that [hospitals] do not have too many people in a given location at any time.”
People counting solutions also provide valuable data that enables hospitals to make critical decisions, increase efficiencies, and reduce staff and patient frustrations. A people counter system:
- Improves accuracy and costs less than having staff count people manually.
- Analyzes peaks and troughs in visitation to determine when people visit most often, allowing management to staff appropriately.
- Analyzes how visitation is affected by factors such as weather or local events.
- Enables demand-based cleaning, ensuring the hospital is safe and sanitary for all people.
- Increases security by tracking how many people were in a building at the time of an emergency.
Occupancy control software uses multiple technologies to help improve visitor flow. For example, Ombori Grid's Occupancy Control solution integrates the following tools:
- People counters tally people entering and leaving a location, offering real-time occupancy numbers.
- Entrance control allows hospitals to maintain occupancy regulations. When locations reach their maximum occupancy level, doors close automatically, and when occupancy levels decrease, they automatically reopen.
- Management alerts notify management and staff when occupancy levels reach preset thresholds so they can adjust operations to meet demand.
Occupancy control solutions offer numerous benefits to hospitals:
- Management can be confident that the location is compliant at all times with fire, insurance, or COVID regulations governing the maximum number of people permitted in a building.
- Visitors are less likely to experience frustration thanks to the clear display of current occupancy levels, which allows them to understand what is happening when a location is temporarily closed.
- Traffic flows more smoothly because people can choose low occupancy times to visit the hospital.
- Visitors "are less likely to run into each other, knock over displays and products, and [leave] debris on the floor."
- Occupancy control solutions help mitigate the risk of having too many people inside a single location, which is a general fire safety hazard.
Queue management solutions enable virtual queueing, thus eliminating the need for visitors to wait in physical lines. This software also streamlines the check-in process:
- Visitors can join a virtual queue in advance online, via a self-service kiosk, by using an NFC tag, or by scanning a QR code at the location. They then receive a confirmation on their mobile phone or a printed ticket.
- When they are near the head of the line, visitors receive a notification instructing them it is time to move to the location. They receive a second notification when it is their turn. At any time, mobile users can view their position in line and the expected wait time.
- On arrival at the location, visitors can check-in using their paper ticket or via a QR code on their mobile phone. This automatically updates real-time queue data and triggers notifications to other visitors who are waiting.
Ombori's Queue Management tool increases visitor satisfaction by creating a smoother, less frustrating visitor experience.
- The software offers transparency to visitors about their wait time, and people feel they are actually being serviced.
- Healthcare facilities that integrate queue management with occupancy control can offer visitors a virtual queue option when the physical location is overwhelmed by a large number of people.
- Real-time and historical data on queue size, wait times, and abandonment allows management to respond to situations as they occur and predict and prepare for future demand.
In tandem with queue management software, hospitals can use an appointment booking solution to further enhance visitor flow. Technologies such as Ombori Appointment Booking enable visitors to make appointments online, prior to arriving at the facility. Plus, it offers healthcare providers, visitors, and associated staff the following benefits:
- Easy rescheduling: Visitors can reschedule appointments online at any time, even when the location is closed.
- Fewer missed appointments: Visitor reminders minimize the number of missed appointments, which reduces wasted time and resources.
- Increased productivity: Online booking frees staff from having to set up appointments with visitors. Managers can see schedules so they know what their staff is doing and adjust operations accordingly.
Digital signage is a powerful tool that allows hospitals to create playlists to improve hospital visitor flow. Here are some of the most common examples of how digital signage is used within hospital visitor management systems:
- Informs visitors when occupancy has reached its maximum level and displays information regarding wait times.
- Displays menus, speeding up the ordering process in cafes or similar settings.
- Offers directions to visitors, reducing overcrowding in specific areas.
- Announces patient updates in waiting room areas, controlling visitor flow.
Selecting the Right Visitor Management System for Your Hospital (or Healthcare Facility)
Today, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of tools to help improve visitor flow. Effective solutions can change the dynamics within a healthcare environment, improving the overall experience for patients, visitors, staff, and management. Its effective technologies ensure the following in every healthcare facility:
- Less waiting time for visitors: Patients and visitors do not have to wait on the premises but can wait in their cars or at another nearby location, such as a coffee shop or cafe. The system informs them of the expected wait time and notifies them when it's time to enter the location. It can handle both in-person and telemedicine appointments, giving staff maximum flexibility.
- An informative experience: Digital signage can be used to display useful information in waiting rooms and other locations. In addition, when combined with the interactive customer remote, it allows patients to browse for detailed information related to their specific condition.
- Visitor safety guidance: It ensures every facility is complying with all regulations and reduces unnecessary visits.
The world has changed immensely since the emergence of COVID-19, and the healthcare industry has had to adapt. With the health and safety of patients, staff, and visitors at the forefront, more healthcare facilities are turning to visitor management solutions like those provided by Ombori. While the pandemic continues to recede, the benefits of these systems remain.
Rui is COO of Ombori Grid. Before joining Ombori in 2017, he worked in Beijing, Tokyo, Silicon Valley and Zagreb before ending up in Stockholm. He previously spent nine years in R&D at Ericsson as Operative Product Owner, and is a highly skilled leader in IT and communications with a successful track record of working closely with both stakeholders and management.