Patient Check-In Kiosks Pay Off

Patient Check-In Kiosks Benefits

Health care facilities are under increasing pressure to cut costs while improving the patient experience. Check-in kiosks can help accomplish that goal.

For years, we’ve been able to book an airline flight, check in to a hotel and apply for a job via a self-service kiosk. For some reason, though, when we visit a health care facility chances are we’ll be handed a clipboard, a pencil and a stack of stack of forms, with instructions to have a seat and return them to the front desk when we’re done filling them out.

Invariably, those forms present a box less than a quarter-inch in length, where we’re supposed to enter our street address, city, state and zip code, along with insurance information and detailed health history.

Of course, there are some facilities that have taken the first steps into the modern age. When my wife was making an appointment for cataract surgery not long ago, for example, we were directed to the facility’s website. There, we were provided with a link to the admission forms with instructions to print them out, fill them out by hand and bring them to the appointment.

It doesn’t make much sense that airlines and hotels abandoned paper forms long ago, but many health care facilities continue to hang on. Fortunately, times are changing and more and more facilities are offering patients the ability to check in and perform related tasks via a self-service kiosk.

Kiosks provide results

Although the cost of health care might lead one to think providers are making money hand over fist, that’s just not the case. While it’s true some are very profitable, others barely break even or operate in the red. Generalizations are difficult, but a recent article in the trade journal Modern Healthcare indicated that median operating margins for non-profit hospitals were 1.7 percent in 2018, down from 1.8 percent in 2017. Operating margins of 2.5 percent or greater are considered a requirement for sustainability.

Health care facilities are facing many of the same issues as businesses in other sectors, including rising costs for equipment, supplies, labor and insurance. In addition, Medicare reimbursements are expected to decline over the next several years, even as a greater and greater segment of the population reaches retirement age.

And those same high costs that make us think doctors are rolling in dough are contributing to a slowdown of the number of people seeking health, increasing competition and putting further pressure on revenue. Because of that, facilities are putting an increasing emphasis on improving the patient experience.

Check-in kiosks have been widely demonstrated to address all those issues, and more.

A 2007 survey conducted by the California HealthCare Foundation looking at the use of kiosks by Kaiser Permanente found that more than 75 percent of users of the facilities’ check-in kiosks found the process was faster than checking in through a receptionist. More than 90 percent of those users were able to do so successfully without needing any assistance, and the same number said they felt comfortable with the level of privacy offered by the kiosk.

Reaction to a kiosk rollout at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee was so positive that the Center expanded its rollout to additional locations. Patients can use the devices to check in for appointments, make payments via credit card and debit card, read and sign forms, access their schedule of appointments and view or print a summary of future appointments.

More recently, a 2016 kiosk deployment at the University of Alabama-Birmingham Medicine system in Birmingham, Ala., resulted in benefits including greater patient satisfaction, increased patient payments and more accurate data capture, according to the newsletter of the Healthcare Financial Management Association. Before the kiosks were installed, according to the HFMA newsletter, collections on patient accounts at the point of served averaged about $1,500 per day. In the month after the kiosks were deployed, that averaged jumped to $2,400 per day. It’s a good bet that the more accurate capture of data lessened the denial of insurance claims as well, thanks to a reduction in paperwork errors.

Elsewhere, a kiosk deployment at UT Imaging in Bellaire, Texas, allowed the facility to communicate with patients in a variety of languages, reduced waiting lines, eliminated most paper-based tasks, improved collections of patient balances and helped the facility lower operating costs.

Of course, a kiosk deployment isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, and there are issues that need to be addressed. Privacy needs to be at the forefront of any deployment plan to avoid running afoul of HIPAA regulations. Any deployment needs to include screens with privacy filters that allow only the user to see the screen as well as security features to prevent unauthorized actors from accessing patient information.

In addition, if the kiosk will process payments the device needs to be PCI compliant and resistant to tampering.

And it’s important to be cognizant of the fact that chances are pretty good that the primary users of patient check-in kiosks will be sick people. There are a number of antibacterial products on the market that can help minimize the spread of germs. It’s also likely that some users will be disabled, so compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act is a major consideration as well.

Working with an expert

When someone visits a health care facility, the professional they see spent many years studying medicine, but likely didn’t spend any time at all studying kiosk technology. Because of that, facilities considering a kiosk deployment should work with a vendor who has extensive experience in the field.

Olea Kiosks, for example, offers a number of kiosk solutions for patient check-in. The company has already installed thousands of devices in health care facilities around the country.

Olea’s flagship Verona model includes no-effort, height-adjustability to ensure the kiosk can be accessed easily by all patients, whether standing or in a wheelchair. Standard components include a 19-inch capacitive touchscreen with accurate onscreen signature capture, privacy filter, EMV-compliant payment devices, duplex ID scanner and printer. The kiosk is ADA-compliant, and all internal systems are accessible through the front of the unit, making it suitable for placement against a wall or with another Verona unit back-to-back.

Optional components for the Verona include a magnetic card reader and biometric identification capabilities.

Olea’s Boston 2.0, the second generation of its most popular healthcare kiosk, includes many of the same features as the Verona along with a choice of energy-efficient LED upper light box or 19-inch LCD monitor for ads, internal marketing and branding, an electronic signature pad and thermal printer.

Olea’s kiosks have processed millions of patient check-ins over the years, and its offering continue to improve. At the end of the day, the best way to ensure the kiosk you choose is ADA compliant and can meet the needs of every one of your patients is to work with a vendor experienced in such considerations. Olea Kiosks stands ready to help.

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