In the past month, patients have begun emerging from the fallout of the national response to COVID-19 and are trickling back into urgent care centers. This comes as no surprise, as state-mandated shelter-in-place orders are being altered, and, in some cases, rescinded. But patients appear to be approaching their visits differently than before the pandemic hit our nation— our data demonstrates that while walk-in visits haven’t yet reached 50% of their pre-COVID frequency, scheduled appointments have rebounded almost entirely, reaching nearly 100% of their previous volume. Consumers prefer in-person care if they have a scheduled appointment time, driven by the sensitivity to the potential spread of infection. According to a recent Solv consumer insights survey of a representative sample of Americans across the United States, more than half of patients would be more likely to visit a clinic in-person if they were able to register ahead online, wait remotely and enjoy a contactless check-in and discharge experience.
It’s clear a contactless registration experience is crucial to getting patients volumes back to where they were pre-COVID. In this blog, we will explore how to provide a safer, more streamlined and satisfactory experience for you and your customers.
Reducing wait times and patient contact increases satisfaction
Eliminating wait times altogether remains an impractical goal for urgent care centers, but the fact remains that the amount of time patients wait for your care has a direct impact on how they perceive their visit. A recent study reports an inverse relationship between patient wait time and satisfaction: the longer they wait, the less likely they are to leave a positive review for your clinic. It’s not difficult to imagine why, as patients regard their time in urgent care waiting rooms with as much boredom as they do anxiety about catching something they don’t already have - and the COVID-19 pandemic has only served to intensify those fears. Though nearly impossible to anticipate wait times for walk-in patients, load balancing your online appointments during slow hours can help you distribute your volume throughout the day.
Offering patients the ability to schedule visits online can make your clinic vastly more appealing by guaranteeing their time in your waiting room remains as brief as possible. Patients are free to spend more time at home resting and recovering and less time in a potentially crowded, germ-filled waiting room. Scheduled appointments will make your patients’ lives easier - and your staff’s, too. By offering appointments during historically low-traffic hours of the day, you can load balance patients, keep scheduled appointments away from peak times, and ensure your office runs smoothly while reducing waiting room backups. Fewer variations in patient volume will ensure your staff feel less rushed during each appointment, which in turn leaves the patient more satisfied with their care. Providing online booking can even reduce wait times for walk-in clients, as patients who schedule appointments are less likely to arrive during peak hours. Scheduled and walk-in patients alike will likely enjoy a more relaxed, reduced-wait experience and leave your clinic satisfied and more inclined to return.
Load balancing your walk-in and book ahead patients will help your patient throughput remain steady throughout the day, but often during peak times, wait times are inevitable. As social distancing measures greatly limit the capacity of your clinic, it will be vital to provide a live waitlist for your scheduled and walk-in patients. This allows them to remain in the patient queue while being physically absent from your waiting room, which is more important than ever for maintaining appropriate distancing in an already small space.
Additionally, providing a live waitlist can improve patient satisfaction in a number of ways. First, it empowers your patients to occupy their time how they choose. It alleviates the stress of waiting in a room full of potentially contagious patients. It also allows your patients insight into how long the wait will be, and gives them the chance to wait for their appointment alone. Each of these things - anxiety reduction, time occupation, the simple fact of knowing how long the wait will be and the ability to wait alone - improve the psychological experience of waiting in a line, and thereby increase patient satisfaction by making the wait time seem shorter and more enjoyable. Your staff will now be free to complete more important tasks than fielding questions about wait times and ensuring the patients in the waiting room are taking appropriate personal protection measures. With increased sanitation measures in place, we know every spare moment is precious.
Creating an end-to-end contactless patient experience will prove ROI
Now more than ever, consumers are uncomfortably aware of how many surfaces with which they come into contact each day, especially in medical settings. They have become wary of any physical interaction, and while an arsenal of hand sanitizer, masks, gloves and increased sanitation efforts have served as a useful stopgap and assuaged well-founded fears, it is by no means a lasting solution - and patients are demanding more. Recent findings demonstrate companies that invest in a contactless end-to-end experience report increased customer satisfaction and return-on-investment. While an exclusively contactless experience remains impractical in the medical field beyond initial telemedicine triaging, a few changes to the check-in and follow up experience you provide will yield many of the same benefits.
As mentioned above, a contactless check-in and follow-up experience are crucial to patient comfort. Over half of surveyed patients stated in our 2020 Consumer Insights research said they would be more likely to return to receiving in-person care at a clinic if these measures were in place, making it critical that the online booking solution you choose to implement includes electronic registration. Allowing patients the ability to upload their photo ID and insurance, complete paperless registration, schedule a follow-up appointment and pay for their visit all from their smartphone or tablet is vital for providing a safer, more streamlined urgent care experience.
Providing digital registration and payment collection eliminates physical intake and discharge paperwork, which increases patient and staff safety by minimizing contact with identification and insurance cards, communal clipboards, pens and point-of-sale systems. Oh, and did we mention it’s eco-friendly?
Now more than ever, the switch to an online booking solution is an investment worth making. Only a platform that includes e-registration, contactless check in, a live waitlist, direct messaging, pre- and post-visit digital payment collection and follow-up appointment scheduling will begin to satisfy increasing patient demand for a luxury urgent care experience. Solv is the only expert in consumer preferences, and with our new contactless patient platform, we can help you enter the next generation of healthcare with ease. Interested in learning more about Solv and how you can easily consolidate your virtual and in-person operations? Learn more here.
Join us next week for suggestions on how to transform your waiting room into a space more conducive to social distancing.