Okotoks walk-in clinic first in Alberta to introduce service designed to reduce wait times

A walk-in clinic in Okotoks is the first in Alberta to introduce a notification service designed to help patients avoid sitting around in the waiting room for what can feel like an eternity.

Skip the Waiting Room launched in 2015 in P.E.I. and has since expanded to six other provinces. The website allows patients to sign up online and then alerts them when they should arrive at the walk-in clinic, rather than waiting for hours. 

"We've only been using it now for about two weeks and one thing that patients are finding great about it is that it's just an easy way for them to access the physician's schedules and book right in," said Robert Biddlecombe, project manager with the Pinnacle Medical Clinic.

"Especially when you're sick, the last thing you want to do is sit inside a waiting room in a medical office with everyone else who is sick."

"This way people just walk right in, see the doctor, and leave without having to sit around," he added.

"Pure necessity" drove founder Mark Richardson to develop the website. Speaking to the Calgary Eyeopener from P.E.I., Richardson said he came up with the idea after a particularly lengthy wait to see a doctor.

"I sat there waiting for four and a half hours one day," he said. "I looked around, everyone had their smartphones out, and I thought, 'This is crazy.'"

How it works

If you're going to a clinic that uses the service, you can register for an appointment online at skipthewaitingroom.com. Skip the Waiting Room will then notify you by phone or text with a time you should arrive for the appointment — even if the doctor is running late, Richardson explained. 

"If the doctor is late or anything like that, we'll delay when we're going to send you that text message or phone call," he said. "The whole point is we only ask you to come in when it's going to make sense for you to do so."

Richardson said he's received some "phenomenal" feedback from users in P.E.I., where the website has become so popular people are even signing up on waitlists. 

"People are finding we're doing what we're saying we're doing," he said. 

Richardson plans to expand to Pinnacle Medical Centre's Beddington and Crowfoot locations in Calgary in the coming weeks. 

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With files from the Calgary Eyeopener