Why One Health System Eliminated its Reception Area

April 7, 2015

Need to accommodate more patients and exam rooms in your medical practice? Consider eliminating the reception area.

When officials at Nor-Lea Hospital decided to build a new outpatient clinic to accommodate rising patient demand, a key consideration was allowing room for growth. Their solution: eliminate the lobby.

Using Versus Technology's self-rooming system, patients will go directly from registration to the exam area, says Dan Hamilton, chief operating officer of Nor-Lea Hospital District in Lovington, N.M. Patients receive a room assignment and an electronic badge that allows staff to monitor their location on a computer screen. Red and green lights on the screen tell staff members which rooms are occupied.

"After a patient checks in, nurses can see their location and movement on a white board or screen," he says. "The system allows us to see how much time a patient spends in the lobby and how long it takes to get to an exam room or see a physician. It all functions in real time."

The new system, combined with a more patient-friendly design, has dramatically reduced wait times and improved patient flow, according to Hamilton. In December 2014, the average time spent by a patient getting from the registration to an exam room was 32 minutes, down from 83 minutes in the previous clinic.

Clinic staff members also wear electronic badges in order to keep track of their colleagues' locations and monitor patient-to-staff ratios.

"We saw a lot of wasted time in our old clinic where a physician came out of an exam room and needed something but couldn't find anyone to help," says Hamilton. "Now our physicians can push a button on their badge when they are with a patient and it alerts the nurse."