QLess CEO Kevin Grauman mentioned in this article that the reality is until there are a few billion doses of a reliable vaccine, we are still living in a world defined by the pandemic. There is no “post” about it. And in this new world, making people wait in line is the height of corporate irresponsibility. It’s why in-store retail is being supplanted by deliveries and curbside pickup. It’s why state agencies are allowing more and more administrative work to be done online. And it’s why hospitals—the epicenter of the COVID crisis—are moving to line-free options for their patients. To learn more, we conducted an interview with Kevin.
1. Are lines crucial to the organization of our lives? Why is that?
Right now they are—and that’s a huge problem. Lines and crowded waiting rooms are completely off the table right now because of the pandemic, but it’s the only modality that most of us know. If you think about it, we spend YEARS of our lives waiting in lines at grocery stores, restaurants, the DMV, and hospitals. They’ve always been inconvenient, but now they’re inherently unsafe.
2. How should lines be perceived in this COVID-19 era?
Lines are quite literally the enemy of good health. They fly in the face of every medical recommendation to socially distance. So many businesses are struggling because they have always relied on lines and never had a plan B.
3. Why are hospitals turning around COVID-19 patients?
Simply put, they don’t want to get more people sick. It’s crazy to think about hospitals—whose ONLY job is to keep people well—literally telling people not to come in. It’s an admission that their processes are fundamentally flawed.
4. Are we experiencing longer waiting times in hospitals nowadays? What is the main reason for that?
The entire reason for social distancing is that by slowing the rate of infection we can “flatten the curve” enough to prevent hospitals getting overwhelmed by seriously ill patients. Wait times are up, but the reality is that they’ve always been bad. In some states—even before COVID—the average wait was almost five hours. COVID hasn’t made it better.
5. Can hospitals exist without lines?
The short answer is yes, of course they can. Keep in mind that hospitals have several kinds of lines. There are scheduled non-emergency visits, such as going in for chemotherapy treatments. There are ER visits, which of course get triaged based on severity. And then there are people walking in for care without appointments. Even on a good day, it’s chaotic. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Quite literally, no hospital should ever have people sitting in the waiting room or standing in line.
6. How do line-management platforms work?
In very basic terms, the physical line is replaced with a digital one. Imagine that you fall and hurt your arm on a Saturday morning. It’s pretty obviously not a bruise, and you can’t wait until Monday to call your GP. So, you get in your car, drive to the ER, wait in line to talk to the intake staff and then read a two-month old copy of People until your name is called two hours later. Between the time you decided to go to the hospital and the time you see a doctor, it could be three hours. Line management platforms let you do all of that remotely, so you sit at home in a virtual queue until it’s time to see the doctor. There’s also the added benefit of bi-directional communication, so you’re constantly in contact with the hospital through text or voice messages. When you know that you’ll be seeing the doctor in 20 minutes, then you get in your car.
7. What line-management platforms emerged as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
Line management has been around for several years, but it’s always been a way to provide better service and better customer experiences. Because of COVID, it’s suddenly become indispensable. It is truly the power tool for social distancing that enables convenient, two-way communication. It’s not a luxury.
8. What are the main challenges hospitals are facing nowadays?
Right now, it’s about having enough beds and keeping people safe. Doctors, nurses and allied health professionals are putting their lives on the line every day, and even one of them getting sick could be catastrophic. That’s why so many hospitals are keeping people who may have the virus out.
9. Should lines be eliminated in hospitals? Why is that?
Not only should they be, they have to be! There’s simply no way to have lines or crowded waiting rooms and keep patients and staff safe. And thanks to line-management tools, there is no excuse to ever have a physical line again.
10. Where do you see hospital lines in the next 5-years?
In five years all waiting rooms should be converted into a coffee shop because no one will ever wait in a hospital for an appointment again. Absolutely every aspect of the pre-appointment process can be automated. Even things like waiting in lines for blood tests or to pick up prescriptions can be eliminated. And with technology like line management platforms fully implemented, hospital staff will work more efficiently and patients will be happier, because they’ll all have the ability to send and receive updates and feedback, which allows everyone to manage their expectations dynamically.
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