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3 technologies to improve the patient check-in process

Allowing patients to check in electronically, whether from a kiosk or tablet, can improve the patient experience and reduce the workload for the front desk staff.

From the time patients schedule their doctor's appointment to the time they are seen, they will have to complete several medical forms. However, some healthcare organizations allow patients to fill in paperwork online ahead of time. There are a few technologies healthcare organizations can adopt to increase staff productivity and improve the patient experience during the check-in process.

The patient check-in process provides healthcare providers with medical history, current medications and consent forms. In a traditional setting where technology may not be used, the check-in process can be a burden on patients and front desk staff. In fact, there are even cases where the written medical history is illegible, making it difficult for the clinical staff to make sense of the forms. There is also the amount of time it takes to fill in forms. These paper-based forms also contribute to more resources being spent on collecting the forms, scanning them and shredding them once digitized.

To reduce some of the inconvenience associated with the paper-based patient check-in process, several healthcare organizations use technology to help reduce check-in time and improve the patient experience. There are some common options to consider, and while they can't all eliminate the need for some paperwork for patients who may have limited access to technology or difficulties using it, medical practices are actively adopting them to help improve the patient check-in process.

Stand-alone PCs or kiosks

One of the most frequently used technologies for the patient check-in process is the kiosk model. This is similar to what most large airports have at their ticket counters. The process starts with patients scanning their credit card or driver's license, and then they proceed to interactive screens that guide them through the check-in process. These kiosks not only collect the required medical history and allow patients to sign documents, but they can also collect payments for outstanding balances or copays. This process reduces the resources required at the front desk to check in patients.

One of the drawbacks of these kiosks is the time it takes to complete some of the medical forms, which can result in patients opting for printed forms due to their ease of use. From an IT perspective, most of the kiosks in the marketplace offer integrations with many of the popular EHR systems and only need a wireless connection and access to the EHR.

Portable devices for the waiting room

An alternative to check-in kiosks is the use of tablets. There are several popular options in the marketplace, like Phreesia, or standard tablets, like iPads and Android tablets, with a preinstalled patient check-in app. This approach provides an added convenience for patients as they can take the tablets with them back to their seat and then return the tablet to its charging station or front desk staff once they've filled out the forms. The IT requirements for this deployment may require more wireless infrastructure since more devices are being rolled out.

Patient portals or mobile apps

An alternative to deploying computers and other mobile devices in the waiting room for the check-in process is to require patients to complete all the needed forms from their own devices. This requires the healthcare organization to offer a patient portal or online forms on their websites that patients can visit and complete prior to their appointment. There is also the option to offer these forms via a mobile app that patients can access from their smartphones.

While there are certainly a few options to pick from when it comes to taking advantage of technology to improve the patient experience during the check-in process, IT must take into consideration the patient population that comes into its practice. Factors like access to broadband, age range of patients and even complexity of medical forms can influence the decision of which check-in tool is the right one.

This was last published in February 2019

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