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Why We Are Against Patient Waitlists

why waitlists don't work

We should say upfront that we are anti-waitlists. When our founder, Patrick Randolph started QueueDr, he created an electronic patient waitlist product where schedulers would add patients to a waitlist and click a button to text them when the doctor had an earlier appointment. His very first customer was a dental office in San Francisco. In their first month with QueueDr, they  filled 24 of 25 cancellations for a fill rate of 96%.

With this information in his backpack, literally, Patrick was able to sign up dozens of other healthcare offices in San Francisco who needed waitlist management.  Many had phenomenal first months with QueueDr and Patrick had dreams of grandeur. But just as quick, nearly all of the medical offices stopped using the product after the first month.

Examining What Went Wrong With The Electronic Waitlist

Let’s examine the analysis Patrick walked through.

Did the Text Waitlist Management Product Work?

Yes, it filled a much higher percentage of patient cancellations than front office staff did. It did not fail nor create any other scheduling issues.

Did Texting Patients Save Schedulers Time?

Yes, after the initial 10 seconds of adding patients to the waitlist, everyone reported hours in weekly time savings due to a reduction in staff phone calls.

Was QueueDr’s Waitlist Product Too Expensive?

No, it was less than 5% of the revenue brought in by QueueDr.

RECOMMENDED: The Definitive Guide to Patient Waitlists

Why Waitlists Are To Blame

Then what the *#$% was it? The Human Component.

Time after time, we found that after the initial honeymoon phase of “new healthcare technology” lapsed, most medical offices gradually stopped adding patients to the waitlist.  We found that requiring staff to add patients to a waitlist was enough friction to prevent people from using our scheduling product. From that point forward, QueueDr became, and still is, fully automated and requires no human component.

RELATED: The Definitive Guide to Healthcare Automation

Waitlists and Incentives

This journey led us to a realization. While schedulers absolutely care about patient access, there is a strong disincentive for schedulers to use waitlists (even ones that are easy to use). The work required to manage the waitlist does not correlate to their performance metrics. It creates more work without an obvious benefit. First, they must add patients to a waitlist. Second, when an appointment opens,, they now have to call those patients. The more patients they’ve added to the waitlist, the more calls schedulers have to make. In fact, a recent customer commented that it took their staff 14 phone calls to fill an appointment from the waitlist!

In addition, the front office staff workflow is full of clicks. Kaiser Health News calls it “Death by 1,000 Clicks”. Each click that is added diminishes the likelihood that a task is going to get completed. We realized that a manual waitlist can add 3-5 clicks per patient. Multiple that by the number of patient appointments a scheduler will book in a day and you see the problem. Schedulers tell us with their usage what works and what doesn’t. Waitlists do not work.

From that point forward, we realized that if we want our online scheduling product to help healthcare organizations, we couldn’t make the click problem worse. We rebuilt QueueDr from the ground up and have become the only fully automated solution designed to solve patient access.

Want to solve Patient Access without the waitlist? Read the Definitive Guide to Patient Access