As an oncologist, former CMIO and current health information technology (HIT) industry advisor, Dr. Michael Procino understands how important the patient experience is—and what an impact it can have on a medical practice.
Dr. Procino was a recent guest in a webinar, Latest Technologies for Improving Patient Satisfaction in Healthcare, and he shared some interesting insights. A key one is how patient wait times may seem like a small part of a patient’s experience, but they can have a powerful effect on overall patient satisfaction. For instance, Dr. Procino cited a survey of over 5,000 patients that found a staggering 97% of respondents were frustrated by check-in and wait times at the doctor’s office.
Self-service kiosks: eliminating check-in bottlenecks
In his own practice, Dr. Procino discovered that much of the patient wait-time frustration comes from the check-in process. In a survey of nearly 7,000 patients over a two-year period, his office discovered that the majority (62%) of its patients checked in early or on time and then went through a check-in process that could last as much as 20 minutes. His office personnel were slowed down considerably by getting forms signed, collecting insurance information and co-payments, answering questions and adding patient-provided records to the patient files.
In an attempt to alleviate the frustration that his staff and patients were experiencing, his practice switched to check-in kiosks, which were equipped with document scanning capabilities. The office began to deliver a better patient experience by using technology that people were already experienced in using in airports and other similar venues. Upon arrival, patients could quickly scan filled-out forms that were delivered earlier by mail or email, saving significant time.
Delivering better service while improving staff and back-office efficiency
Dr. Procino’s office found that one staff member could support four to five self-service check-in kiosks during peak periods—like first thing in the morning and right after lunch—to prevent any backlogs. As the doctor explained, “This was a much more reasonable option than adding more check-in desks in already crowded office. We all are experiencing more patients as the population ages, and we are in a space crunch. It would require floor space, construction and hiring more staff whereas a kiosk has a nice small footprint.”
The kiosks ultimately benefited not only patients, but the office itself as well. There was an average improvement in check-in times per patient of 3 minutes and 45 seconds. Patients also liked scanning their own documents as it eliminated the staff’s physical contact with insurance cards and other documents, and reduced the risk of contamination.
The kiosks also improved back-office operations, as there was an average daily increase of revenue collection by $535 per clinic. It turned out that the kiosks were better at collecting co-pays and any past due balances than the manned desks were.
To the office’s surprise, its patient satisfaction ratings increased significantly, with a 12% improvement in the most complained aspects during a clinic visit of patient check in and wait times. A year after the kiosks were implemented, the practice reached a 96% patient satisfaction rating, which had been unheard of. Previously that rating had never been higher than in the 70s or low 80s percentile in previous years.
Beyond kiosks: Adding scanners to medical carts
Bill Eggers, a senior vice president at Derive Technologies, also joined us on the webinar. Derive is a value-added reseller and integrator has a big focus for healthcare. The company offers its customers mobile point-of-care medical carts that can be equipped with a fi-800R document imaging solution.
These kiosk units can be placed in registration areas and used as a self-service check-in station. The medical cart version can be used by medical staff as a workstation on wheels unit that can collect patient information wherever the patient is located in the hospital or clinic, including temporary locations like COVID-19 vaccination sites. These mobile carts are perfect for tents, school auditoriums, pharmacies, stadiums and more.
The carts, which are adjustable in height, come with long-life batteries that can be used for full days without recharging. The fi-800R’s capabilities are a perfect fit for Derive’s cart solutions. The scanner features a front-scan and reverse document return capability which can be used for a variety of document types including insurance and patient ID cards. It also has a fully integrated automatic document feeder for batches of various-sized documents at speeds of up to 40 ppm and a duty cycle of up to 4,500 sheets a day.