Because of the current pandemic caused by COVID-19, we’re all navigating a new normal. No industry has been forced to adapt their processes quite as quickly or drastically as healthcare. As practices ramp-up to aid with the outbreak or prepare for a surge in patients, they must somehow also find ways to minimize the spread of COVID-19 in their professional ranks and among these same patients. One approach is simply keeping patients physically distant from each other—not an easy task when you have patients filling up waiting rooms. But some healthcare providers are finding new ways to keep patients a safe distance from each other without compromising on care. These tactics let them keep waiting rooms empty and minimize the risk of exposure for all parties involved.
One increasingly common practice is setting up a so-called “remote waiting room” for patients who have an appointment. Rather than cancelling or rescheduling their care due to the threat of transmission, a remote waiting room lets practices continue to see patients one at a time, without requiring patients to interact with anyone but their care provider. Here’s how it works:
Inform – Using a blend of messaging software and their practice management software, the healthcare provider sends a text or email to a patient the day before their appointment. While some practices are using phone calls and other means to achieve this, messaging solutions make the process much easier and scalable, particularly as the need for care rises. The message itself should let the patient know their appointment is still scheduled along with any instructions relevant to their visit (testing versus treatment visits likely require different protocols). It should also inform them that as part of the precautions you’re taking to prevent virus transmission, you’ll require them to wait in their vehicle upon arrival until you are ready for them. They can let you know they’re in the parking lot by texting or calling your front desk.
Distance – When patients arrive, they’ll stay safely in their vehicles and, as mentioned, text you to let you know they’ve arrived. This keeps them away from each other, keeps your waiting room empty, and allows you to limit the amount of in-person interaction patients have with your team and each other.
Text – After a patient receives care and leaves your office, you simply text the next person listed in your PMS appointment book (the person waiting in your lot) to let them know you’re ready for them. Be sure to let them know whether they should go directly to a specific examination room or whether they must speak with someone up front first. If it’s the latter, be sure to remind them of the 6 ft. distancing rule. While some offices are achieving results through traditional phone calls, text messaging and emails allow practices to more effectively manage larger volumes while keeping lots of people and procedures coordinated.
What About New Appointments?
For new appointments, this process might differ. Many patients are understandably concerned that symptoms they have might be related to the COVID-19 outbreak. Due to the volume of concerned patients, and a certain degree of panic, this can result in dozens of additional calls and inquiries from worried patients—it’s tough to stay on top of it all. To help pre-screen patients and understand more about their situation before they come into an office, many practices are using communication tools that allow them to text with patients or even chat directly on their website home page. During this time of crisis, the Health and Human Services Department is considering solutions like these as acting under good faith under HIPAA, which makes them perfectly suitable to use. We’ll get into this in more detail in another post.
How to Make It Easy and Fast
We at Swell recognized an opportunity to help practices keep in contact with patients. When it comes to setting up remote waiting rooms, pre-screening, or just keeping patients informed, practices need some help. That’s why we’re giving away our communications package completely free for 60 days to any practice.
There is zero obligation and we will do everything in our power to get you set up so you can use these tools to effectively communicate with your patients. All you have to do is schedule some time with us and we’ll get you started. Our communication tools plug directly into your practice management systems and your website, so it’s easy to text, email, or chat with all of your patients inside one screen—whether it’s a laptop screen or an iPhone screen. These features let practices:
Pre-screen online via a WebChat that lives on your home page.
Set up remote waiting rooms (like we discussed in this piece).
Keep patients informed through the most effective medium: texting.
We feel this is our chance to give back and ease some of the challenges afflicting healthcare practices. If we can help you in any way, please visit www.swellcx.com/freechat or email us directly with questions at email@example.com