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Can Online ER Check-In Set Better Wait Time Expectations and Grow Patient Volume?

Over a 14-day period in June 2020, Arriv conducted a randomized controlled experiment wherein patients who used Arriv’s online check-in tool were shown one of two check-in methods: Half of the patients were asked to choose a 30-minute window for when to show up at the emergency department. The others were given the traditional option of specific check-in times. The results surprised the team.

July 19, 2022

Imagine this: You’re a patient checking in online ahead of an emergency room visit, and the check-in service asks you to choose a specific arrival time. It looks like you’re scheduling an appointment, so you show up expecting to be seen right away. 

You wait. And wait some more. You realize the time you selected probably wasn’t an appointment but an arbitrary slot the online check-in tool had you select. You’re disappointed. 

Emergency rooms are unpredictable by nature, so it’s extremely difficult for hospitals to give patients exact appointments. 

By offering specific times, most online emergency department check-in tools on the market today create unrealistic expectations for patients. And when hospitals inevitably can’t meet those expectations, patients get frustrated. Everyone loses.

Arriv is an online check-in tool designed specifically for emergency departments that uses experimentation and machine learning to improve the emergency room experience for both patients and hospitals. It wanted to learn: How can online ER check-in tools alleviate this frustration by empowering patients with accurate information while being mindful of an emergency room’s ever-changing capacity?

A New Idea: Arrival Windows Instead of Specific Time Slots

First, Arriv set out to create better expectations for wait times. Instead of offering patients specific check-in times to choose from, Arriv wanted to know how patients would react when offered arrival windows instead.

Windows allow potential patients to select an interval of time for when to show up to the emergency department. For example, if a patient selected a check-in arrival window for 2 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., they could arrive at any point in that time frame.

Arriv designed an experiment to test the arrival window option to study whether patients would still be willing to check in without the appearance of a precise check-in time or specific wait time. Would they prefer the windows instead?

 

The Experiment

Over a 14-day period in June 2020, Arriv conducted a randomized controlled experiment wherein patients who used Arriv’s online check-in tool were shown one of two check-in methods: Half of the patients were asked to choose a 30-minute window for when to show up at the emergency department. The others were given the traditional option of specific check-in times. 

The experiment was conducted across more than 20 facilities across the mid-southern United States  and collected data from almost 850 patients.

The Results: A Better Scheduling Solution 

At the end of the experiment, Arriv learned patients who were given the option of time windows were more likely to complete the online check-in process. When compared with the group given specific times, those offered 30-minute windows were nearly 3.7% more likely to complete the check-in process.

To put it simply, more patients completed the check-in process that set more realistic expectations.

Better Expectations = Improved Patient Satisfaction 

Higher completion rates aren’t the only advantage time windows have over precise check-in times. In setting better expectations, Arriv creates a better patient experience — and research backs that up. 

Studies have found that someone who arrives early for an appointment will be content to sit until the appointment’s scheduled time. However, once the appointment time has passed — even by as little as 10 minutes — they grow increasingly annoyed.

While online check-in tools that use a specific check-in time don’t explicitly promise the slot will function as an appointment, it sets an expectation for patients that sets them up for disappointment. Meanwhile, time windows offer more flexibility and don’t give patients the impression of an appointment time. 

That’s not the only way Arriv works to create better expectations and improve patient experiences. 

Arriv’s ER online check-in tool also uses machine learning to project how busy emergency departments will be at a given time, setting accurate wait-time expectations for patients. Because patients know when they need to be at the emergency department, they’re able to wait in the comfort of their own home until their chosen time window instead of in a hospital waiting room. 

In a recent interview, one patient said he chose a hospital that used Arriv over a facility he had visited in the past.

“I tried to see if I could also assess what [the other facility’s] wait time was and to make a decision. Couldn't find it easily,” the patient said. “I went to [the hospital with Arriv’s online check-in tool] and jumped right in. Once I saw that it was like, ‘Yeah, it's perfect.’ I can set up a time, I know the best time to go. Let's do that.”

Not only does Arriv set better expectations, but when patients check in online, studies have found they’re more likely to follow through and show up to the emergency room. Research shows that when someone is prompted to make a specific plan, such as checking in to an establishment, it increases the probability they will follow through on their intentions.

The experiment around time windows was only one of many that Arriv has done.  

Through adjustments both big and small, Arriv continuously innovates on its online check-in tool to drive incremental improvements in patient experiences.  For example, Arriv modifies individual hospitals’ user interfaces to determine what their patients respond to best.

The data shows that those changes pay off. More than 93% of patients polled have said Arriv’s online check-in was user-friendly, gave them the information they were seeking, and that they would use  the service again.

Guaranteed to increase patients in 90 days or your money back.

Let us prove it. Try Arriv with no risk.

Want to learn more? We would love to hear from you.

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