virtual waiting roomOne of the many changes that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused is rethinking the use of waiting rooms. Even prior to the pandemic, sitting in a traditional waiting room left the possibility of various illnesses being spread among patients. One of the major roles of the waiting room is to have patients complete paperwork such as demographic information, the release of information, HIPAA, and consent forms, as well as collecting insurance information, etc. which can be a time-consuming process. The role of the brick-and-mortar waiting room is now being questioned. Given technology’s clear ability to assist with many of these functions, why require patients to sit in a room with other potentially ill patients to wait for a provider who often is not able to keep a timely schedule?

Enter the Virtual Waiting Room

Several clear examples of the shift underfoot is currently being undertaken by Memorial Health Systems in Illinois. The group is working on a virtual waiting room to allow a patient to complete all of the upfront administrative paperwork from their homes. The virtual waiting room utilizes artificial intelligence chatbots to help collect and organize all the data needed in advance.
Traditionally, all the administrative tasks associated with a doctor’s visit might be handled by several different staff members doing the registration, insurance processing, coding/billing, scheduling, etc. Using the virtual waiting room saves time for medical staff who used to process that information. Now they can utilize their time in more effective and patient-centered care ways. Memorial Health System’s virtual platform utilizes chatbots, apps, and portals to handle the various administrative tasks. The chatbots help coordinate the communication between the patient and the doctor’s office. They offer the patient a more humanly experience and provide the opportunity for the patient to get connected to a living person if they need it.

Behavioral Health Ahead of the Game?

In the behavioral health arena, multiple companies have been offering customized virtual platforms for use by clinicians for several years. These services include a virtual waiting room, as well as other administrative services, such as paperwork completion, payment, scheduling, etc., that can be completed online through the platform, as well as the actual online visit. In many ways, behavioral health had been ahead of the telehealth curve long before COVID-19 arrived.
When the pandemic hit, many mental health clinicians who were providing services from brick and mortar offices scrambled to access online services that have actually been available for several years. (see resource) The medical healthcare community, in general, has been slower to modernize their practices. Because of the global pandemic, there has been a dramatic surge of telehealth use in the healthcare industry (see Waiting to Exhale About Telehealth after COVID-19) and tremendous innovation in telehealth technology. One of the changes being a more pleasant waiting room experience.