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People don’t typically like to wait. This characteristic has been exposed even more with the adoption of smartphones and other digital technology. Consumers can pay their bills, order a meal or schedule an appointment, all without leaving the house. 

Patients have long complained of lengthy wait times, either to get in to see their provider or once they’re in the office. Some studies have found a correlation between long wait times and worse overall patient experiences. That’s one of the reasons wait time is a key quality metric in a number of national patient experience surveys. 

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, median patient total wait times, including time spent in the wait area as well as in the exam room waiting to see a provider, ranged from 20 to 25 minutes. A previously published survey found that 84 percent of respondents stated that a reasonable wait time was somewhat or very important to a quality patient experience, while 30 percent of respondents admitted to leaving an appointment because the wait time became too burdensome. 

Promoting Patient Engagement to Meet Consumer Demand 

Most healthcare providers experienced markedly reduced patient volume in 2020 and 2021 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, mitigating long in-office wait times as more care shifted to telehealth. However, that trend has stagnated somewhat, moving instead toward a hybrid care model that combines virtual and in-person experiences across the full continuum of care. 

The hybrid care model, along with the continued adoption of telehealth and other digital health tools, meets consumer demand to minimize time spent in the provider’s office, not only for safety but also due to the convenience it offers. As noted by the American Telemedicine Association (ATA), it provides a more personalized, flexible and seamless patient journey, improving both the in-person experience as well as giving patients more autonomy over their own care. 

It’s even more incumbent upon providers during the current healthcare labor shortage to be able to effectively combine virtual care and in-person visits. That’s why many healthcare organizations are employing various types of digital technology to achieve this goal. 

For example, patient engagement technology allows them to streamline various administrative tasks throughout the hybrid care model. Patients can schedule appointments, fill out necessary forms, scan their insurance card and check in with a provider simply by using their smartphone, computer or other digital device. Similarly, virtual waiting rooms offer healthcare provider staff a resource to better manage the flow of telehealth patients. 

Convenient and accessible digital tools enable healthcare providers of all sizes to compete with direct-to-consumer healthcare options and promote patient retention. Interoperability and integration of such digital tools with electronic health records (EHRs) will result in better quality outcomes and lower cost of care

In an article published in Healthcare Business Today, Epion’s chief revenue officer, Scott Freedman, expands on the capability for low-touch workflow through high-engagement technology and how it can be utilized in a hybrid care model. Contact us for additional information on how digital technology can help your practice do more with less.