As organizations turn their attention inward to identify possible areas of the revenue cycle that can be updated or streamlined, one area that may be primed for improvements is the check-in process. While traditional check-in methods can be complicated for both patients and staff, many organizations are finding ways to harness technology to make the check-in process more user-friendly, brief, and harmonious within a larger health system.
Streamlining with Self-Service Kiosks
One of the most popular technologies being utilized for registration are self-service kiosks. Whether in the form of a standalone structure or a tablet, using kiosks for registration can free up resources while increasing patient satisfaction, in large part by reducing wait times. At one organization interviewed by HBI’s Revenue Cycle Academy, wait times dropped from 30-50 minutes to an average of six minutes, and staff needs were cut by 19 FTEs. This increased efficiency can mean fewer registration staff are needed, and some team members can be reallocated as greeters who help and encourage patients to use kiosks.
In fact, another organization reallocated excess staff created by its kiosks to its pre-registration call center, resulting in a drop in the call abandonment rate from 18% to 3.6% and the ability to take on a higher volume of patients without increasing staff. Furthermore, the organization also allows patients to make payments at kiosks, which has led to an outstanding balance collection rate that’s 2.5 times higher than when staff collected manually.
However, kiosks are not without drawbacks. For example, the reason that some organizations may choose to reallocate excess staff into greeter roles is because surveys show that patients are often hesitant to use kiosks. In fact, 74% of HBI survey respondents said only 20% or fewer patients use their organization’s kiosks. Another 10% had 21-60% utilization, and 16% had 61-80%. Patients may be reluctant to use kiosks because of a distrust of technology, concerns about infection control, or simply the preference to interact with staff over a machine. Knowledgeable and friendly greeters could help to curb that uncertainty. Still, some organizations who previously installed kiosks are removing them due to low usage, high operating costs, or an inability to be fully self-service due to the nature of the care being provided (e.g. at a cancer center).
More Secure Patient Signatures
While many organizations transitioned over to the use of electronic signatures during the height of the industry’s to more easily maintain electronic records, new and more secure methods of patient identification continue to be developed. In some cases, an identification card may be swiped at a kiosk during check-in, or biometric readers such as finger print and iris scanners may be used for increased security.
In one example, an organization implemented palm-vein scanning at the point of registration as part of an initiative to alleviate the stressors of using different registration systems at each of its care locations. This technology helped reduce the organization’s duplicate patient record rate down from 5% to 0.1%, streamlined the overall registration process, and proved extremely in trauma situations where patients were unconscious and without identification. The palm-vein scanners were so effective that the organization began implementing them at kiosks to further increase the security of self-identifying without a registrar present.
While adoption of biometric technologies has been relatively slow so far, it will likely become more common as the technology improves and cost-to-implement decreases. Meanwhile, even more secure methods of biometric identification may step into the forefront in the coming years, such as real-time DNA identification or the use of biometric identification on mobile devices.
Consolidated Check-Ins for Multiple Same-Day Appointments
A more specific challenge that faces healthcare organizations is managing check-ins for patients who have multiple appointments in the same day. Typically, a patient in this situation would have to check in once for each appointment; however, it is possible to develop a system by which patients check in once for the entire day. Seeing this opportunity, one organization uses a “Patient Pass System” wherein patients who arrive at the centralized check-in desk receive one patient pass for each appointment they are registered for, each of which they then scan at a kiosk that confirms and alerts the clinician of the patient’s arrival.
While it’s easy to fall into the mental trap of “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it,” it’s important to continually reassess all areas for possible improvements, and the check-in process is no exception. There are many new and innovative methods and technologies for patient check-in that organizations can take advantage of that can have a positive impact on the organization as a whole. When considering any of the above options for improving the check-in process, it’s important to consider what will be most impactful, cost-effective, and long-lasting for your organization. Where one organization may benefit from self-service kiosks, another may implement them only to experience more difficulties as a result. Identify the gaps and challenges in your existing structure and explore the possibilities for addressing them. There may not be one ideal check-in structure for everyone, but there’s always room for improvement.
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