Digital health tools take the ‘wait’ out of waiting room

Integrated care
Valerie Janczewski

Using tablets, kiosks and even smart furniture, health systems across the US are connecting with patients the moment they enter the hospital or clinic, meaning the waiting room is no longer a wasted opportunity.

Healthcare providers are taking advantage of the time before the doctor’s appointment to gather registration and insurance information and even collect some vital signs. The goal? To bolster the patient’s medical record before the appointment, giving the doctor more information to work with and improving patient engagement.

A new take on collecting health information

Among the health systems using mHealth in the waiting room is NYA Langone Medical Center, which deployed tablets for patients of the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health this past year, and Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, whose iPads feature an app designed by the hospital’s IT and clinical departments.

Meanwhile, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), charged with providing healthcare services to a veteran population that usually doesn’t take kindly to waiting around, is also using mHealth. Two years ago it launched an ambitious project to install some 6,000 registration kiosks in busy clinics and hospitals around the country.

‘Smart’ use of patient time

Last year the agency tested out a new mHealth platform: the smart chair. The model they use contains a weight scale, blood pressure cuff and thermometer, as well as an attached tablet that enables users to enter other information while waiting for a doctor’s appointment. The data collected is integrated with the health provider’s electronic medical record platform and an online portal.

"A business mantra we have is to change wait time into service time. The chairs create an opportunity to utilise some of that wait time," Mike Davis, Director of the VA’s Veterans Point of Service programme, told the US’ Information Week in 2014. "We debuted them in St. Louis at the VFW convention in July and had an overwhelming response. We had repeat customers every day and oftentimes lines to test-drive the chair and kiosks," he said.

Patricia Dear, the VA’s senior project manager for the smart chair program, said the agency is considering using the chair in rural clinics and other public health settings. There’s also been some talk of partnering with the Department of Defense, the Indian Health Service and other government agencies to place smart chairs in a number of different facilities.

You can read more about how the NYU Langone Medical Center is using mHealth in the waiting room here and about the Mount Sinai Hospital project here