3 Lessons COVID-19 Has Taught Us About Modern Waiting Rooms

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The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has caused major upheavals across healthcare organisations worldwide. Many have been forced to make significant changes to their day-to-day operations, whether that means staff working from home, or patients accessing treatment online. 

The Problem With Waiting Rooms

GP surgeries are the first point of contact when any of us need medical care, with a large number of practices offering upwards of 100 appointments per week during busy periods. The majority of appointments before the outbreak were traditional face-to-face sessions.

However, due to the high infection rate of the virus, many practices have adopted digital tools to help minimise footfall and physical appointments to prevent the unnecessary spread of COVID-19. Waiting rooms in particular are recognised as a source of increased risk, as patients are in extremely close proximity to each other. 

So, what does this mean for the future of GP surgeries?

As lockdown restrictions start to lift, we'll see a gradual return to life as normal, but the modern waiting room as we know it will look drastically different to before. 

Here are three key takeaways that COVID-19 has taught us about how we manage hospital and GP waiting rooms. 

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1. Better Screening Is Essential

The pandemic has made us much more conscious of the risks that patients with damaged immunity face each time they sit in a waiting room. Patients that have a higher risk of complications from contracting an infection should be shielded and dealt with separately where possible. 

We've seen this take shape in the form of staggered appointments, social distancing, and isolating certain patients on arrival. These measures help to protect those most at risk and minimise unnecessary interactions throughout the practice.

As lockdown eases and more patients start returning to their local GP surgeries we expect these preventative measures to continue for the foreseeable future. 

2. Digital Technology Is Here to Stay

The fast adoption of digital patient engagement technology has been a crucial part of the medical response to the current crisis.

We've seen a future in which many medical appointments can be performed from home. Technology has made it easier than ever for patients to access the healthcare information and advice that they need, all while avoiding long and arduous waits in GP waiting rooms.  

Video consultations, online bookings, and remote technology have played a significant role in reducing footfall and helping the continued delivery of care while patients are away from the practice. The accelerated shift to digital technology has been consistently well-received, so many of the tools that have gained traction during this time will be a mainstay in healthcare when things return to normal.

3. Safety & Assurance Are Key

For many, the uncertainty surrounding the current healthcare environment can leave many patients anxious when they arrive at your practice. We've seen attempts to mitigate this, with regular cleaning routines across busy areas, wellness checks, and better management of patient flow – to help put patients at ease. 

The increased use of digital signage is also playing a role in ensuring patients are kept engaged and informed while they wait for their appointments. Waiting room screens help share relevant information, advice, and support to patients that may be apprehensive about coming into the practice. They also help establish a consistent, trustworthy rapport with your patients, and stop the spread of misinformation.

The New Normal

If the recent upheavals have taught us anything, it's that digital technology can be a vital resource in the modern waiting room.

How we handle healthcare has changed irrefutably and benefits of digital care are set to extend far beyond the current crisis and will remain a significant part of healthcare long after it's over. 

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