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Tool cuts wait times at Children’s After-Hours Clinics

Jan. 17, 2019, 11:04 AM


by Jessica Pasley

Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt is cutting waiting room times by half in its after-hours clinics, thanks to a new tool that patients can use for “call-ahead” arrivals.

Using a ClockwiseMD tool called Skip the Wait, parents can view estimated wait times to assist them in determining when to bring a sick child to one of five Children’s Hospital after-hours locations.

“The tool was implemented after our clinics reported increasing requests from parents about current wait times, either as they were checking in at a clinic or before they arrived,” said Chris Westbrook, MSHA, MBA, director of Children’s Hospital Off-site and After-Hours Clinics. “This software allows patients in the waiting room, as well as those who look online, to see current, accurate wait times.

The new Skip the Wait tool lets parents view estimated wait times at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt after-hours locations.
The new Skip the Wait tool lets parents view estimated wait times at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt after-hours locations.

“Often, we have had multiple families waiting in their cars and rushing the door when the clinic opens to be first in line,” said Westbrook. “This real-time feature will allow families to wait at home and receive an alert about 20 minutes before the expected time to be called back to the clinic for their visit.

“It has helped reduce crowding in the waiting rooms,” he said. “Patients who use the Clockwise software wait in our waiting room about half as long as those who follow the traditional walk-in method.”

Although the Children’s After-Hours Clinics are not the first adopters of this technology, they are one of the first in the area to roll out the concept, according to Westbrook.

Skip the Wait is experiencing growth and is being considered for use in other Vanderbilt Health clinics.

All five pediatric after-hours clinics use the online scheduling tool, which can be accessed via the Children’s Hospital website. Users scroll down to the after-hours clinic link and determine which location they want to use. The Skip the Wait box appears at the top of the page.

A parent enters the child’s name and a cellphone number to be notified. The notification default, which determines the length of time before a text message is sent, can be changed for the parent’s convenience.

Wait times are based on the current volume at a clinic. The software uses an algorithm to measure time and predict how busy a clinic is. Each clinic is also outfitted with a screen detailing wait-time estimates for each patient.

Vanderbilt Children’s After-Hours Clinics open at 6:30 p.m. The tool begins to estimate arrivals at 7 p.m., which allows the system 30 minutes to process patient flow.

“This is not an appointment time,” Westbrook said. “It is an estimate and allows families more flexibility. Many of our patients are reporting back how useful this has been.

“No one wants to wait in the car when it is cold outside with a sick child or sit in a waiting room full of other sick children, especially when they can be in the comfort of their own home. Our overarching goal is to better serve our patients.”

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