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Friday, July 10, 2009

Could your practice's waiting area become obsolete?

Could a web-based “virtual queue management system” that allows patients to use their cell phones to hold their spot in line eventually replace waiting areas in physicians’ practices? Alex Bäcker, PhD (no relation of mine), the founder and CEO of abInventio, which makes QLess, believes it could. (Bäcker’s mission is actually far more ambitious: to wipe waiting lines off the face of the Earth.)

This type of system is different than those you might have encountered in some restaurants. There’s no electronic device to distribute and no need to stay on the premises. Patients could check into a line by sending a text message or making a phone call. When their turn in line has come up, they would simply receive a text message or phone call.

It’s probably too soon to begin thinking about remodeling your waiting area into another exam room – the idea has yet to take hold in health care. But it’s worth thinking about. Imagine how a system like this one could help some practices compete with retail health clinics that enable patients to shop while they wait to be seen. Imagine being able to offer patients an alternative to rubbing elbows with sick patients in your potentially crowded waiting room – one that would allow them to use their waiting time more productively. Having recently experienced a lengthy wait at a doctor’s office (not my family physician’s), I must say that eliminating the “waiting problem,” as Bäcker describes it, would give new meaning to patient-centered care and service.

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