The virtual queue in healthcare waiting rooms

Posted on Saturday September 21, 2019

Grey Dove

The traditional queue is the linear wait in line queue. Visible by its nature, it reinforces the need to wait. Many linear queues are still evident in healthcare, entry at the full car park for instance, queue for a reception desk etc. Whilst waiting may be an expected component of healthcare (the perpetual mention of waiting lists), the reality is that they remain onerous, stressful and a sign of disarray, a failure to balance supply and demand. Many patients complain about delays and lack of acknowledgement, no wonder in a context of healthcare which is characterised by high stress, sometimes painful and disabling.

However, much of the queuing is in fact virtual, an invisible linear queue (or multiples of linear queues) amongst a gathering mass within a waiting room, aptly named and acknowledging the disarray. Without the visibility of the linear queue, acknowledgment for patients is required, “How long will it be before I am seen?” Tensions rise.

The problem is that whilst many patients adjust to the healthcare expectation of waiting, little acknowledgment arises, and they are left in the dark. An announcement of delays is an estimate at best and we see complaints of patients being seen in under their delay time, the trust already lost. Additionally, there is indifference to waiting if it isn’t visibly apparent. The patients come and are seen, what’s the issue? What’s more, hospital appointments are often multiple steps, increasingly so with one stop clinics where a pathway delivers a series of consultation events (patients attending to have plaster casts removed to be seen by a doctor once an X-ray has been taken denotes a series of not one but 3 linear queues). The virtual queue therefore becomes a multiple series of changing virtual queues, invisible and often, frankly, in disarray, the management of it by means of passage of paper requests, multiple manual processes, loss of transparency and lack of data. Communication by means of carrier pigeon.

The reality is punctuality is rarely measured or encouraged, patients receive their free NHS service, what grounds have they to criticise service? The answer lies in their ownership of choice. Whilst the staff are oblivious to the complexities, the patients typically observe discrepancies in waiting time and queue order. They can choose to complain or show gratitude, choose to trust, choose to go elsewhere. Remaining indifferent as a business and reputation will dwindle, lose trust in a healthcare relationship, and you may lose momentum on achieving wellness.

DASHclinic is a queue management tool for healthcare clinics that organises, supports and measures virtual queues giving acknowledgment by showing the live overview of the healthcare clinic.

Wait no longer.