Telehealth brings radical appointment scheduling benefits to light
Sep 29, 2022 | Dialer Enterprise
Attention practitioners: imagine this… instead of scheduling virtual visits to start at a specific time, you give your patients a window of time in which the visit will start and you join when you’re ready. And this leads to an overall time-savings in your schedule. If you’re saying to yourself, “inconceivable,” you’d be wrong. This new on-demand, or “tele-untethered,” model is groundbreaking — more efficient for patients, more efficient for providers. On-demand access to healthcare mirrors the on-demand experience consumers expect from their products and services. Waiting is passe. We no longer accept it at restaurants (the host gives us a pager that buzzes when our table is ready) or on the phone (we prefer providing a phone number to get a call back from the product or service provider). This consumer-grade experience has now moved into the healthcare arena.
A new study by doctors at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) revealed that its UCSD Tele-Untethered Initiative improved clinic flow, eliminated virtual waiting room time, and increased throughput. Quality Management in Healthcare published the results.
Conducted in a vascular neurology clinic over a 2.5-month period, patients were asked if they’d be open to participate in a flexible approach to telehealth visits. If so, they were given an option of a “standard” scheduled telehealth visit or a “tele-untethered model” for which they’d be sent a video visit link via Dialer within a defined window of time. Visit rates, percentages seen early/late, time savings and satisfaction rates were then measured.
Of the 22 patients who participated, 76% were “tele-untethered” and 24% were “standard telemedicine.” 55% of the tele-untethered patients were seen early, and no patients were seen late. Moreover, there was a 55-minute-per-session time savings for practioners.
This new approach to appointment scheduling creates a streamlined, optimized workflow that, according to the researchers, “addresses prolonged wait times, putting patients and providers more in control of their appointment times, improving wait times, and increasing the on-demand convenience of the telehealth experience.” We know that wait times are a great source of irritation for patients, even eclipsing how they perceive the care received during appointments. This is exacerbated in a virtual waiting room where there is no one to provide updates on a late appointment. And it’s problematic for providers who are running late to notify patients they’ll be there soon while the patient is “sitting” in a virtual waiting room.
This is an exciting time for telehealth. While there are certainly obstacles to overcome, we are also encountering benefits far beyond anything we could have imagined during its early years. The tele-untethered model’s positive impact on the patient experience is just one of the many unintended yet beneficial consequences of the telehealth experience.