Author: Eric Croteau, Sr. Epic Consultant
From banking to shopping to airports, self-service kiosks are a way of life for consumers. Today’s air passengers have eagerly embraced interactive kiosks to speed up the boarding pass process and avoid long lines at the airport. Self-service kiosks are becoming increasingly familiar fixtures in hospital, health system and physician practice reception areas.
Over the past decade, the building of a kiosk’s patient check-in process has rapidly evolved to offer diverse functionalities that include managing complex scheduling and payment processes. Despite the tool’s growing technology sophistication, all kiosks in healthcare serve the same purpose – improve registration efficiency, increase payment capture and support resource reallocation, resulting in higher patient and staff satisfaction.
Add-On Functions Improve Engagement
The more functions a kiosk can offer to check-in the patient, the less manual registration work that the hospital’s front desk employees have to perform, allowing them instead to focus on fulfilling engagement tasks. Fast-track kiosks should include a front and behind-the-scenes menu of task options that support a robust patient check-in workflow. Here are a few examples:
- Patient identification. Patients can type in their name, swipe a debit or credit card, or use their fingerprint or a barcode to check-in. A typical 30-second process that takes the patient from the scheduled to arrive status can save the provider up to three minutes of registration time. Some hospitals enable online check-in that the patient can do at home; hence, the patient arriving at their hospital or practice destination find their check-in data is already verified. Many patients are reluctant to swipe their credit cards in fear of identity fraud. However, kiosks are encrypted and personal finance information is not archived.
- Payment processing. Real-time insurance eligibility checks and the ability to pay a past due balance or co-pay are offered to patients.
- Wayfinding. Patients can print map or text-based directions, for instance, between the lab and radiology units for two appointments scheduled the same day.
Other optional information-capturing tasks that providers can choose to augment their kiosks include: registration collection such as confirming the guarantor, e-prescription refills, future appointment scheduling, wait times display, patient portal enrollment and the ability to print or email forms.
Processes Accelerating Kiosk Usage
In developing a kiosk deployment strategy, the following support processes can encourage high visibility and utilization to drive patient engagement, streamlined check-in and return on investment.
- Consider placement of kiosks in high visibility, obvious areas such as the front admissions lobby of the hospital or the outpatient practice. Kiosk location enhanced with signage is critical to ensuring patient usage success whether it is employed as an appointment check-in device to alleviate admissions staff engagement or a standalone machine for paying medical bills.
- Designate a greeter to meet repeat and new patients arriving at the facility and to assist in the kiosk check-in process. Essentially, the patient is greeted by a hospital or practice staff member. Depending on the patient’s needs, the greeter will instruct the individual to use the kiosk or assign that person to an employee. Much like the greeters stationed at airport kiosks, the greeter drives traffic in “pushing” kiosks to patients, making them aware of the device. Keep in mind that though some information cannot be entered electronically onto a kiosk, the greeter is your first line of defense resolving issues before the patient is seen by the clinician.
- If unable to designate a greeter, assign an employee to assist the patient during the kiosk check-in process. Though the kiosk will prompt the patient for address, phone number and other personal contact details, the “scheduler” is typically the patient’s first point of human interaction with the organization, helping to ensure a positive patient experience.
- Understand that a kiosk has functionality limitations. Not all patient check-in tasks are able to be completed due to the diverse needs of each patient. Some tasks will be referred to the patient front desk to handle, or a process can be created to capture and document remaining items after the appointment during checkout.
- Similarly, figure out how much is too much. Kiosk vendors offer a wide range of functionality in their patient check-in modules; however, not all functions benefit every organization. Thus, the provider must determine the reasons for deploying kiosks, determine the right functionality that realistically meets the organization’s goals and set expectations with employees. If staff is not engaged in the kiosk usage process or feel threatened by the auto-registration, they will not adopt the kiosk nor promote it to patients.
- Kiosks are relatively expensive investments. To obtain an effective return on investment, determine a time savings formula for measuring the minutes saved during kiosk patient self-service registration comparable to manual front-desk registration time.
- Educate the front desk employees of the kiosk’s pre-registration benefits in terms of proven time savings and re-allocation of meaningful tasks.
As kiosk functions continue to evolve and expand, more benefits will also increase, helping both patients and healthcare professionals. While self-service kiosks are more popular in other industries currently, hospitals and health systems are, in essence, at the turning point for mass adoption.
Eric Croteau is a consultant at Pivot Point Consulting. Over the past eight years, he has supported developing and implementing the Epic Welcome® application onto more than 30 kiosks at two large health systems.
To learn more about kiosk deployment, driving patient adoption, return on investment, or kiosk strategy, contact us at info@pivotpointconsulting or 800.381.9681.