Patients arriving to UW Health primary care clinics are now directed straight to an exam room and skipping the waiting room.

Around 2009, Dr. Sandra Kamnetz, primary care physician, UW Health, and professor of family medicine and community health, UW School of Medicine and Public Health, began experimenting with the idea of patients being directed straight to an exam room at the UW Health Monona and McFarland clinics that existed at the time.

Kamnetz and Ramly

Sandra Kamnetz, MD and Edmond Ramly, PhD, MS.

“The whole idea of a waiting room just seemed so unnecessary,” she said. “Why have patients sit in close proximity with others who might have a cold or the flu?”

The process also allowed patients with young children to get to a room without having to settle them in one place and then have to relocate them to another space, which can be challenging, Kamnetz said.

When patients arrive, the scheduler at the front desk alerts a medical assistant that the patient has arrived through the electronic scheduling system and gives the patient a card that displays the room number. Signs in the clinic help direct the patient to the room. Once the patient arrives in their room, the medical assistant comes to the room and the visit proceeds as usual.

The initial impressions from patients and providers were so positive it got Kamnetz and others at UW Health thinking about how the health system could change the way clinics were designed in the future, Kamnetz said.

So, around 2015, UW Health constructed four clinics with much smaller waiting rooms, designed for patients to guide themselves to exam rooms directly. One of these clinics was UW Health Yahara Clinic, which replaced the Monona and McFarland clinics.

The remaining UW Health clinics continued to use the traditional rooming method until the COVID-19 pandemic, Kamnetz said.

“Once the pandemic hit, we needed to find a way for patients to get to their rooms without coming into contact with other patients, but fortunately we had the blueprint sitting in our laps,” she said.

Seemingly overnight, all primary care clinics converted to self-rooming, and in late 2022 self-rooming became permanent practice at all UW Health primary care clinics, according to Kamnetz.

Recently, Dr. Edmond Ramly, assistant professor of family medicine and community health, UW School of Medicine and Public Health, along with Kamnetz and Drs. Elizabeth Perry, Brian Arndt, Jennifer Lochner, and Maureen Smith, had survey results published in Annals of Family Medicine that examined how patients and providers perceived self-rooming. Of the more than 1,500 patients surveyed, around 86% preferred self-rooming, the survey results showed.

“Our data showed what we perceived from the start, most patients prefer this method of rooming,” Kamnetz said.

A toolkit for health care providers on self-rooming is available at HIPxChange.

Published: February 2023