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Study evaluates how to eliminate telemedicines virtual waiting room: Text message indicates when doctor is in

Your virtual visit with your doctor is at 1:00 p.m. It’s now 1:20 p.m. and your physician has not yet logged in. Do you call the clinic? Hang up and log back in? Groan in frustration?

Being stuck in a virtual waiting room and staring at a blank computer or device screen is a huge dissatisfier among telemedicine patients. To respect patients’ time, and provide the optimal experience, UC San Diego Health conducted a 10-week quality improvement study to evaluate how text messaging a link to a patient when their doctor is ready provides a way to connect patients and doctors most efficiently, without relying on the virtual waiting room.

Results of the study published in the May 27 online issue of Quality Management in Health Care.

“Borrowing from the airline and restaurant industries, we tested whether we could contact patients via text to log into their appointment when their doctor is ready. The goal of the feasibility study was to determine if this flexibility lead to improved perception of waiting time and an enhanced experience, while assessing for time saving for both patients and providers,” said Brett C. Meyer, MD, neurologist, co-director of the UC San Diego Heath Stroke Center, and clinical director of telehealth at UC San Diego Health.

“We stepped back and asked, ‘Do we need a virtual waiting room at all? Can we let patients know when their provider is available instead of making them wait online?'” said Emily S. Perrinez, RN, MSN, MPH, study co-author and director of telehealth operations at UC San Diego Health. “The reality is that wait times and lack of timely communication both correlate with patient experience. Real-time text notification that the provider is ready improved patient satisfaction and this experience is the kind of feedback we love to see.”

Twenty-two patients at a stroke clinic participated in the two-and-a-half month study. Patients chose to either receive a text, which included a visit link when their provider was ready for their visit or the standard telehealth routine of logging in at a scheduled time and waiting in front of a camera in a virtual waiting room.

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