Berit Lindell and Emma Aneshansley

From left: Berit Lindell and Emma Aneshansley

An exceptional experience starts long before a patient sees their provider in an exam room. Recognizing this, outpatient clinics in the Hale Building for Transformative Medicine (BTM) recently saw an opportunity to improve how appointment delays were communicated to patients in the waiting room – an initiative that has since resulted in meaningful gains in patient satisfaction.

Digital signage in the waiting rooms of the Hale BTM’s Neurosciences Center and the Orthopaedic and Arthritis Center now display hourly updates about delay times for individual providers. The technology was implemented first in the Neurosciences Center in late June, followed by the Orthopaedic and Arthritis Center in September.

Since then, the clinics have received direct feedback from patients and Press Ganey patient satisfaction scores praising the improved communication and transparency about delay times.

“Providers sometimes run behind, and often the delays are unavoidable. An earlier patient might have had a complex issue that required a longer visit, or a surgeon was unexpectedly called to the OR,” said Berit Lindell, a medical practice assistant in the Neurosciences Center who was involved in implementing the clinic’s displays. “Patients really appreciate knowing whether it’s going to be a 10-minute delay or a 60-minute delay so that they can plan their day a little better.”

Press Ganey surveys ask patients to rate how well a clinic informed them about delays. The Neurosciences Center’s patient satisfaction scores in this area hovered in the 80s in the months preceding the digital signage implementation. As of this October, the clinic achieved a score of 94.8. The Orthopaedic and Arthritis Center saw similar gains, rising from 73.1 a month before the project to 81.2 eight weeks later.

Emma Aneshansley, a senior practice assistant in the Orthopaedic and Arthritis Center who was involved in getting the digital displays launched there, said patients and staff alike value having delay times communicated in a clear, consistent way.

“The feedback has been wildly positive,” she said. “One thing that did surprise me was I thought that when patients saw their doctor was running particularly late, they would want to reschedule right away. More often than not, though, patients are really appreciative and say, ‘I’m so glad you told me,’ and then grab a coffee or sandwich while they wait.”

Integral to the project’s success has been the hard work of medical assistants and practice assistants who log into the system every hour to provide the latest updates for the clinics, Lindell and Aneshansley said.

“We’re a very busy clinic, and asking our staff members to take time out of their day to update a slide was not necessarily an appealing task,” Lindell said. “But everyone here recognized that if we’re all working on this, we’ll all be able to provide a better experience for not only our patients but also our staff.”

Jeffrey Taylor, MPH, executive director of Clinical Operations in the Hale BTM, said he was very proud of the teams for what they have achieved so far with the project. The next phase will focus on partnering with providers and clinic staff to reduce delays through improved workflows. “One of the biggest areas of focus across the Brigham is improving the patient experience, so this is one way that we’re doing it in the Hale BTM,” he said.