By Rick Halton, VP Marketing & Product, Lumeon

First published in Healthcare IT Today, June 18, 2020

In the current Coronavirus climate, the model of care delivery, as we know it, has been flipped up and has landed on its head. The waiting room is one of those steps in the care process that we’ve taken for granted. Hospitals and clinics must now keep patients distant from each other for as long as possible.

Rather than having waiting rooms as staging areas for patients ‘en masse’, we need to trickle feed patients into waiting rooms, so they are empty and unoccupied. With this approach, we reduce patient contact and the risk of viral spread, allowing cleaning teams to more regularly and thoroughly cleanse the area.

The waiting room is an adjunct holding area for patients until they are ready to be seen. In other industries, a waiting room might be considered something entirely different: like a platform at a train station, a departure lounge at an airport, or the queue to pick up my Starbuck’s order, but had you thought about a car park?

Perhaps the best way for us to be available for an appointment is to be close to the facility, but with a physical barrier around us: Welcome to your car – your new virtual waiting room – and this is how it works:

Instead of walking straight to the doctor’s room, the day before an appointment, the patient receives an automated text message telling them to stay in their car on arrival and once parked up, text back ‘READY’. Signs at the facility and in the car park help reinforce this process. The clever stuff happens next, and the good news is that it can be fully automated.

Already aware of the appointment through a real-time scheduling feed, the system updates the patient status – the receptionist or scheduler is now aware that the patient is available and ready in the car park. At the same time, the system notifies the patient to stay in their car until their doctor is ready to see them – this is done by periodically sending text updates to the patient.

At any time, the patient can text ‘HELP’ to request a call from the reception to seek guidance or ask questions. It is also possible for a lost or confused patient to send their current location. This way, the receptionist can immediately see where they are and help guide them in.

Once the scheduler is ready to send the patient to the waiting room, they release the patient from the car park. The system does this by immediately texting the patient, telling them to go to the room, providing a map to find their way.

This simple, automated virtual waiting room solution uses existing communication technology that people are familiar with – no need to login to a patient portal, download an App, or do any other things that would complicate the experience. It also requires little or no integration – in one client example, Lumeon launched it from start to finish in only two weeks.

With this simple, convenient change in care operations, we are one major step closer to making the hospital or clinic safer – is the drive-thru clinic next?

For further information, please visit Lumeon’s Virtual Check-in webpage