So, which is better—face-to-face or face-to-screen? When technology makes an appearance in a medical office, it usually includes a tradeoff or two. And that’s the patient experience dilemma with self-service patient registration. Who likes it? It just depends.
A positive patient experience begins early in the process—a phone inquiry, online appointment or office visit can shape the relationship between practitioner and patient. Patients have become thoughtful consumers. They know (and you know) that they often have choices, and more than a few folks are willing to change providers.
Even the initial intake procedures need to be the right fit for the consumer profile. Are they experiencing a benefit or a barrier? The traditional “sign-in-clipboard with a pen-on-a-string” is upgraded to a digital, self-service registration kiosk. Maybe it’s a biometric fingerprint reader or a large touch screen for data entry and updates.
How’s that working out for you?
The universal answer is…it depends on who you ask. Many hospitals and physician offices find there’s a strong appeal with Millennials. This is the demographic slice that has grown up with technology. They appreciate the high-tech advantages of faster check-in or on-screen lab results.
But other patients—generally people over the age of 50—often prefer the face-to-face connection and personal touch of dealing with the office staff. For many, having immediate eye contact and an engaging smile is preferable to a cold touch screen.
The convenience of self-registration in healthcare has operational benefits, and generally, boosts patient satisfaction with some patients. The benefits to practitioners and consumers include:
- Strategically placed patient registration kiosks ideally reduce staff time and paper waste.
- Front office and clinical staff are freed to pursue next-step patient care and administrative duties, saving patient wait times and enhancing service.
- Healthcare registration forms are easily digitized by the patients themselves with fewer errors.
- Self-registration can cover several office needs: insurance verification, treatment consents, billing and e-signature captures.
- Self-service registration eliminates wasteful duplication of information, from manual to computerized input by office staff.
- Patient satisfaction increases with the degree of control they possess in their own health care.
- Easier and immediate payment of office fees via self-service kiosk appeals to patients.
There are abundant benefits to patient self-service registration. The future of patient self-service in healthcare is even more advanced than the simple office kiosk. For example, medical consumers are arriving at the office with preprinted passports for appointments. Now or in the future there are connections to Electronic Health Record systems as well as the ever-present smartphone in everyone’s pocket.
Until then there is still some work to be done on the humble registration kiosk. While self-service offers convenience, elements of the human experience are needed to enhance patient satisfaction.
For some patients, technology is a barrier…
Self-registration remains confusing or problematic to some patients in certain situations. Among the American population, seniors are less confident when using electronic devices, and, according to the Pew Research Center, most seniors say they need help using new electronic devices.
As a result, staff members are still engaged in registering patients, often twice, and instructing them in using the self-service kiosks accurately. This is a frustrating, often infuriating initiation of the patient experience.
- Ideally located does not mean conveniently located when it comes to kiosk hardware. It may be daunting to get to the front office desk.
- Onscreen prompts may appear unclear, and, as a result, data is entered incorrectly or incompletely.
- Registration kiosks may be so off-putting and unfamiliar to some that patients go directly to the front desk.
- Self-service registration does not answer the personal needs or immediate questions most pertinent to the patient.
- Of greatest concern is the question of HIPAA and financial confidentiality. Open-office kiosks offer little security and privacy. And patients may fear that their financial information could be compromised.
The good news is that consumer technology is evolving as quickly in health care as it is in retail. Patient self-service registration and other devices are increasingly intuitive to use. And they are able to do more for the patient and the practice, including online, multi-platform office appointments, appointment reminders, text check-in, auto co-pay and other new features.
The additional good news is that older Americans continue to warm to digital devices and the use of the Internet. What’s more, they feel good about it. “Roughly three-quarters of older internet users go online at least daily,” the Pew Research Center reported recently. “Among older adults who own smartphones, this figure is even higher: 76 percent of these smartphone-owning older adults use the Internet several times a day or more.”
The demise of the sign-in sheet…
The old-school clipboard-and-pen is on its way out. Some sort of techno-tool has already replaced many of the paper sign-in at many office reception areas. But the lesson for guiding a positive patient experience is to know your audience. Younger, “digital native” patients are likely to score self-registration as a courtesy, convenience…even a welcome experience expectation.
That said, it’s human nature for most everyone to welcome a positive patient experience that’s person-to-person, warm and welcoming.