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October 25, 2019,

Pain Points in Urgent Care: Waiting Times

3 minute read

Digital Medical Innovations

There is a well established relationship between urgent care waiting times, and overall patient satisfaction and perception of the quality of care. One study from China measured the disparity between a patient's actual waiting time, and their perception of the acceptability of that waiting time. When patients felt that they got quality communication, accurate information, and were allowed to participate in healthcare decisions, they perceived their waiting times as acceptable, even when waits were long. 

What factors contribute to an acceptable waiting time?

This perceived acceptability was influenced by the atmosphere of the waiting environment, their level of privacy when discussing their health conditions, and their interactions with medical staff. However, it was not influenced by their actual waiting time.

In other words, patients are less dissatisfied with long wait times when they feel that they are getting private high-quality communication, are empowered to understand and participate in healthcare decisions, and when they have a more pleasant waiting environment.

 

What can urgent care centers do to affect the quality of waiting time?

Actual urgent care wait times are highly variable, dependent on staffing levels, triage assessments, and demand for services. As we know, these factors continue to drive up wait times around the world, as demand for urgent care increases and the strain on the healthcare system grows. There may be little that a specific urgent care centre can do to decrease actual waiting times, due to the complex interrelationships of factors that lead to ER overcrowding.

However, armed with this new data, we can take active steps to change patients' perceptions of wait times, and devise systems that use wait times more effectively. Changing this perception of wait times may increase patient satisfaction across a broad range of metrics.

 

How does Medvice improve wait times? 

With Medvice, a patient's symptoms and medical history can be recorded by the patient themselves, directly into the app interface, while they wait for medical services. This eliminates the need for a patient to describe their symptoms and history over and over again, as they move through the urgent care provider flow. It also dramatically reduces the data entry burden on urgent care staff, freeing them to use their time more effectively.

Medvice is easy and intuitive for patients to use, and improves the perceived acceptability of wait times by several measures.

  • Increased privacy. Rather than having to verbally discuss their medical information, patients enter their symptoms and medical history into the app. This gives them a greater sense of privacy, which improves the thoroughness and accuracy of the information they share.
  • Value of time spent waiting. By giving the patient a productive, relevant way to spend their waiting time, patients are more engaged and occupied, and less likely to perceive wait times as being long.
  • Accuracy of medical information received. It may be frustrating for a patient to repeat their symptoms over and over again, and they may report different information over time. Furthermore, they may disclose or withhold relevant details in different settings with different medical care staff.
  • More relevant, higher quality interactions with medical staff. By reducing the amount of face-to-face time spent gathering symptoms and history, patients and medical staff can spend more time focused on high-value communication and informed medical decision making.

The time spent waiting is a huge percentage of a patient’s overall time spent in an urgent care centre, and such waiting can be frustrating, boring, or uncomfortable. Medvice is a way to help medical staff and patients use this time more effectively, and turn it into time that improves the quality and effectiveness of medical care. It is a solution that both improves patient satisfaction, and eases some administrative data entry overhead for medical staff.



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