What Technologies are Coming to the Waiting Room?

Waiting Rooms

I saw this image and couldn’t help but laugh. I laugh partially because waiting in a doctor’s office is probably the only time I read a magazine these days. There’s something fun about reading a 3 year old Sports Illustrated in a doctor’s office. Although, I’m often checking my phone instead of the magazine. So, I guess like most consumers I’ll take both.

However, more importantly, this funny image started me thinking about what technologies we’ll see in the waiting room of the future. There are a number of companies (Phreesia and Epion Health) that are working with clinics to provide patients with clinic provided tablets in their waiting rooms. These mostly offer patients a way to digitally check in for their appointment, make paymens and possibly some patient education. These companies often have an interesting model that’s based on advertising or data collection and so be careful to ask the company how they make their money if you choose to go that direction.

What’s even more interesting to me is how we’re going to start leveraging patients’ devices in the waiting room. The majority of them have one and that number is going to continue to grow. The challenges is that it can be tough for a medical practice to make a really good use case for why a patient should download their app. Now imagine you’re a chronic patient. Would you download a new app for each doctor you visit? I’m a little torn on how this is going to play out, but someone is going to make some headway and really start leveraging a patient’s own device as part of the visit and that includes the time they’re waiting.

Whole companies have been built around technology to stream content to a TV in physicians’ waiting rooms. They usually provide them to the doctor for free and then make their money on the advertising and sponsored content they provide. It turns out that patients waiting in an exam room are an extremely captive audience. Plus, you can often target the advertising based on specialty (ie. GYN is mostly women, pediatrics are often parents, etc). However, how effective will this be if we all have our heads in our devices while waiting for the doctor?

Of course, telemedicine is starting to make the waiting rooms more empty. We still have a long ways to go with that and we’ll never entirely replace the office visit, but that will definitely change the dynamic of how we wait for a doctor.

I still feel like I’m not thinking far enough outside the box. What do you think? How will the waiting room of the future compare to today? What technology will we find in waiting rooms?

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • Just want to make you aware of Hughes RiskApps, LLC. Patients enter their own risk factors for cancer and family history via Tablets or iPads in the Waiting Room, and the data is instantly run thru our Clinical Decision Support WebService to determine risk of developing cancer over time and risk of having a cancer causing hereditary syndrome. This data is compared to national guidelines to determine who needs added screening (MRI, etc) and who might need genetic testing. The physician is immediately informed and the patient is tracked for compliance and additional reminders. With less work for the staff, we help improve compliance with the guidelines, which is the current measure of improved quality.

  • Kevin,
    Thanks for sharing. I’d love to learn more. Are you providing the doctor the tablets or iPads or do they buy it and download your software? Does it integrate with the doctor’s EHR? Which doctors do you see using this type of screening application? What’s the cost to use your app?

    Sounds like this ties into the ACO and value based reimbursement model nicely if you’re helping them to track compliance and prevent cancer. Is that part of the idea?

  • John,
    Physicians, hospitals, breast imaging centers, etc. are our target market. Our software and use of our CDS engine is licensed. We do not provide hardware, though we make suggestions as to which to use. We currently suggest iPads for the patient data entry but can work with other Tablets as well.

    We are able to upload a note into any EHR. Semantic interoperability is possible with any EHR that is HL7 compliant with the ANSI approved HL7 pedigree model. Unfortunately, most EHRs lack the data fields needed for the granular data we collect and none are currently HL7 compliant. We are working to fix both EHR issues.

    We currently identify patients for genetic testing for hereditary breast, colon, uterine and ovary cancer syndromes, and for breast MRI screening. We plan to move into colonoscopy screening and osteoporosis screening in the near future, and from there we can really manage almost any screening test for which there are guidelines.

    The basic approach is that the patient enters data, Clinical Decision Support compares that data to the guidelines, and a recommendation made as to what screening study is needed. From there patients are tracked for compliance. This basic approach works for almost any screening study.

    The system is quite reasonable and cost varies by institutional size and patient load. With the current ROI in breast imaging, we expect the system to pay for itself within 3 months of installation.

    In terms of the ACO and population health, it is fascinating how poorly we manage health screening. As one of many examples, 99% of women who need breast screening MRIs are not getting them, and 75% of those who do get screening breast MRIs do not meet the guidelines. We can help fix that type of poor compliance and overutilization.
    We are moving from treating disease toward screening and prevention. Doctors lack the tools to do this easily. Hughes RiskApps can help doctors make the transition.

  • Kevin,
    Thanks so much for sharing more details. Really interesting to learn about and I’ll be interested to hear about progress and the results of your work.

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