Improving The Wait

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At about the thirty minute mark of my wife’s nearly two-and-a-half hours wait for a doctor this morning I came to the conclusion that there must be a better way to do doctor’s appointments. Being stuck in a crowded waiting room – usually full of sick people – is never any fun. Being stuck with a bored child is a clear and present danger banned under the Geneva Convention and the United Nation’s Declaration of Human Rights. It really is a ‘hurry up and wait’ situation as you’re required to be on call and remain in the immediate vicinity. Clearly this is a waste of everyone’s time, so what’s to be done?

Most waiting rooms have a range of ways to relieve the boredom. From ancient magazines to a token scattering of broken toys to the television stuck on the one channel. However the biggest problem is not the wait itself but the lack of feedback.

Consider a system where you’re told upon arriving for your appointment that the doctor is running behind schedule and that you’ll be SMSed or IMed when you need to return to the waiting room. Especially if you’re told the earliest return is likely to be in 2 hours. What would you do? Now, you could choose to stay in the waiting room anyway, but I bet most people wouldn’t.

Or how about a digital screen or board showing either the names in the queue or, if that’s too much of an invasion of privacy, a number that you’re assigned upon arriving for your appointment. At least you’d know that if there are five people before you in the queue it’s alright to dash off to the toilet.

Neither of these systems would be hard to implement. The medical staff already scan your documents and digitise the queue when you arrive, so why not keep the patients informed by making that data available? Even allowing for prolonged examinations and emergencies a 15-30 minute wait is much better than being on call for 150 minutes or more.

Medical practices are foremost a business, so it’s very wise for them to offer good customer service. Even in public hospitals it’s good practice to consider the comfort of of the patients waiting to be seen by the medical staff. Providing up-to-date information and feedback is a straightforward way to ease what is already for most a stressful situation.

About the Author: skribe

Based in Perth, Australia, Antonio Barimen (aka skribe) is a writer, digital media consultant and social media producer.

He is available to help you develop social marketing and digital media strategies, improving communication between staff, partners and suppliers or just increasing the number of fans on Facebook. He has developed successful digital and social media projects for clients including CBS, Evian, Procter & Gamble, Discovery Networks, Pernod Ricard and American Express.

Connect with him on Twitter or Google Plus.
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Post Under Advice, Business February 3, 2009