Start Managing Your Hospital Queue the Right Way

qminder management system for healthcare

As a medical professional, you’re probably familiar with appointments. You may even think there’s no other way to manage tens of patients who come to see you every day.

The fact is, appointments are so widespread that we don’t stop to ask whether they actually work. On paper, it feels like a great way to manage your patient flow and ensure that hospital queues are manageable.

But when you think about it, appointments are a textbook example of a problem-solution mismatch.

Hospitals are a busy place. A limited number of doctors and nurses have to attend to hundreds of patients daily — and you can’t rush quality care.

At the same time, you can’t let the patients waiting in the hospital queue get frustrated. You have to remain flexible, as someone might come in with an emergency.

With that said, are appointments a good queue management system for hospitals?

Let’s break it down.

“Sorry for Being Late, Doctor!”

Patient flow is an unpredictable thing. Put yourself in your patient’s shoes and you’ll see why.

Let’s say you’ve got your patient John coming in at 6pm on Wednesday. John is a busy man: he has to buy groceries, pick up his kids from school, and meet an old friend for drinks.

At any point in the day, something unexpected may come up and make John late for his appointment.

You, on the other hand, have only one thing to do at 6pm — attend to John. By being late for his appointment, your patient derails the entire hospital’s patient flow.

But that’s just one situation, right? Maybe late arrivals are exceptions?

Statistics says otherwise. Lack of punctuality is common across industries in the American labor market. According to a YouGov poll, one in five Americans arrive late for work at least once a week.

Now couple that with tens of patients with appointments on the same day. It takes very little for a planned evening to turn into utter chaos.

How Long Will It Take?

patient managing at hospital

The way appointments work is you estimate the time you’ll need for each patient. You can do this in many ways: referring to patient history, asking about the nature of visit, and so on.

This looks good on paper. The problem is, theory is far from practice.

An “average session length” is a metric that is only valuable in a vacuum. A typical day at the hospital is filled with complex, non-ideal cases that doctors need to solve quickly.

Let’s say you expect to spend 30 minutes per patient. With a 15 minute range, some patients will need only 15 minutes, while others could need up to 45 minutes.

Separately, this feels like a reasonable amount of uncertainty to work with. But when put together, it could waste an enormous amount of time. Worse still, every patient’s appointment time becomes useless.

Sometimes it pays to think of healthcare as a business. Making your patients wait for care is a lot like making your customers wait for service.

Poor queue management will scare most of your visitors away and make life harder for those few who stay.

Dealing With No Shows

managing and planning for queue at hospital

So far, we’ve looked at patients being late and patients taking too long at the doctor’s office. How about those who don’t show up at all?

If a patient doesn’t call ahead and cancel, there is no way for the hospital to know. This wastes a lot of time that could have otherwise been used to attend to other patients.

The problem is, appointments do not give you this flexibility.

In a recent study about patient no-shows, 44% of the participants cited lack of respect in healthcare. Many patients believe that hospital staff disregards their time, opinion, and feelings.

“Waiting was one way disrespect was communicated: the patients’ wait to get an appointment time, the patients’ wait in the waiting room, and the patients’ wait in the examination room.”

The long waiting time and poor customer service cause more no-shows, thus creating a vicious cycle of mismanagement.

Hospital Visits Are Urgent Business

doctor managing patient queue

Can you remember a time when you asked for a reservation at a restaurant, but had to wait for your table anyway? You probably felt angry and made a mental note not to go back there.

This situation may look similar, but the stakes are completely different.

When you need medical attention, you need it as soon as possible. A hospital using appointments to manage patient flow doesn’t take this into account. Instead of getting treatment now, you’re asked to come next week.

A shortage of timely service is a global epidemic. Waiting times for specialist consultations are especially high in Canada, Norway and Sweden, with over 50% patients waiting at least 4 weeks for an appointment.

This is simply not an option for patients suffering from acute illnesses.

What Is a Better Hospital Queuing System?

We’ve outlined the problems with using appointments at a hospital. But is there a good alternative?

The whole point of using appointments is to minimize walk-ins. Your patients call ahead because it’s supposed to reduce their wait time.

The vast majority of patients, however, will continue to be walk-ins.

The reason is simple — you can’t plan emergencies. Random walk-ins, last minute check ups, driving past the neighborhood — there are lots of reasons why walk-ins aren’t going anywhere.

If this is all about saving your patient’s — and your — time, what if there was a way to manage walk-ins better?

This is exactly where a queue management system for hospitals and clinics come in.

We tend to associate walk-ins with long queues, confusion, and frustrated patients. But a proper queue management takes care of all of that, by automating patient flow at you hospital.

Shorter Queues, Happier Patients

hospital wait management

How does a queue management system work exactly?

Picture this: every patient is told exactly when they will be attended to, making physical queues unnecessary.

This gives patients control over their time that they didn’t have before. They’re free to spend it however they like it, outside of busy waiting areas. What’s more, addressing your patients using their first names instead of numbers makes everyone feel welcome.

And this leads us to the main point — customer satisfaction.

Despite what you may think, your patients are your customers. And as any other customer, they want to have good experience. In the study on patient no-shows we cited above, one of the participants says:

“Part of it, too, may be that there’s so many appointments scheduled. It’s just an assembly line thing. People want to be treated like human beings. They don’t wanna be cattle just running in the lounge.”

A queue management system gives you all the flexibility you want, without the need to waste your or anyone else’s time.

Sign up for a 14-day free trial of Qminder to give your patients the care they deserve.

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