Most people have watched the minutes tick by in a waiting room while their doctor’s appointment is running late. For clinics, it’s also a concern, as physicians rework schedules and front desk staff talk to frustrated patients.
Dr. Jennifer Meller, an internal medicine physician, teamed up with her classmate Kavita Mangal at Wharton Business School to come up with a solution. They started their company, Navimize, in 2016.
They had built out a virtual waiting room tool, raised seed funding, and had started collaborating with AthenaHealth. In March of 2020, they prepared to launch their scheduling system at a few large practice customers.
“Then Covid hit, and everything froze,” Meller said.
As practices started to gradually reopen, she and Mangal began to think about what it would take to get patients back into clinics. Keeping people out of crowded waiting areas had become a necessity, not just a nice-to-have.
“We were able to take what we built and repurpose it for Covid — creating this virtual waiting room,” Meller said.
Navimize pulls in scheduling data from electronic medical record systems and sends patients a text message alert if their appointment is running on time, or if it’s 10 minutes behind. They can also receive instructions to wait in their car or another designated waiting area until the doctor is ready to see them.
Navimize’s software helps practices optimize schedules that include both virtual and office visits. Photo credit: Navimize
Two large health systems are currently using Navimize’s software, and a third is contracting with the company. University Hospitals in Cleveland is currently reviewing a pilot launch.
Meller and Mangal also found a new use for Navimize’s software in helping with virtual visits, which aren’t immune to the scheduling woes of in-person visits. Patients still face waiting times when other appointments run over, and even worse, they are more likely to leave an appointment when faced with a blank screen than when sitting in a waiting room.
They also built out an appointment registration system for telehealth visits, as many health systems wrestled with that transition last year. Before, clinics had been making lots of manual calls just to get patients set up for appointments. Automating it freed up staff and increased visit volumes, Meller said.
In the future, they plan to build out additional features in the future to make the scheduling process smoother. For example, instead of having practices schedule the same 15-minute slot for all patients, they hope to use data analytics to schedule visits that align better with patients’ needs.
For example, an 85-year-old patient with multiple chronic conditions might need a longer appointment than a 20-year-old patient that just needs a form filled out.
Mangal said she’d like for Navimize to be a “one-stop shop for everything you need in a virtual waiting room.”
The company is also talking to health systems about using its technology for vaccinations, as getting the new Covid-19 vaccine to the public has turned out to be its own scheduling challenge.
“We’re working on our product roadmap because that’s completely evolved in the wake of Covid,” Meller said. “We’re thinking about what makes sense in this new world and beyond.”
Photo credit: baona, Getty Images