4 Common Patient Check-in Frustrations and 4 Simple Solutions

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When it comes to ways healthcare providers can quickly improve patient satisfaction, the check-in process doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. Instead, organisations can be guilty of chasing more glamorous innovations like online portals, wearables, and patient-doctor messaging services.

While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to provide your patients with the latest tech – after all, you need to remain competitive – it shouldn’t come at the expense of a smooth check-in process. As we’re all told ad-nauseum as teenagers, first impressions count, and check-in is one of the first experiences patients will have of your service – so getting it right is vital.

Here are a few of the most common complaints you’re likely to hear about your check-in process and, more importantly, how to fix them.

1. Queues

Probably the biggest check-in sin of them all. Even if they’re British, chances are your patients don’t enjoy queuing, meaning that long lines are a guaranteed way to damage patient satisfaction within 30 seconds of arrival.

Fortunately, it’s also relatively easy to get right.

While you’re never going to eliminate congestion and waiting times completely, you can reduce your reliance on overworked reception staff and, in turn, dramatically cut queues. The answer is simple: let patients check themselves in.

In practice, this usually means adopting patient self-check-in kiosks, although not necessarily, as some healthcare organisations have experienced success experimenting with online, mobile, and wearable check-in.

The rationale behind switching to self-check-in kiosks couldn’t be simpler. Traditionally check-in has meant a serpentine line of patients waiting while one or two reception staff manually enter each patient’s details – an approach that’s almost guaranteed to take a while and raise a few patients’ blood pressure in the process. Switching to a system that allows visitors to register their arrival by entering their date of birth or patient reference number, cuts the time each check-in takes from minutes to seconds.

That might not sound like much, but just watch what happens when it’s applied cumulatively throughout the average day: queues shorten, patients spend less time on their feet, and front desk staff suddenly have more time for more fruitful activities, like helping those patients who actually need it.

Keep your patient retention high with our guide: "How to Keep Patients from  Cancelling Appointments"

2. Busy Staff

Following on from the previous point, the problem with everybody checking in at the front desk is that those patients who really need to talk to reception staff are faced with a long wait to do so. Whether it’s an elderly patient who doesn’t feel comfortable using self-check-in, a patient booking a follow-up appointment, or simply someone with a question, making them wait 10 minutes isn’t likely to do wonders for patient satisfaction.

Again, this can be easily resolved, all you need do is remove the bottleneck created by patients who don’t need to do anything more than tell a receptionist their name and date of birth. And yes, the easiest way to do this is to implement a self-check-in service that can be used by the majority of your patients ­– freeing up staff to talk to those with more complex needs.

3. Accessibility Barriers

Like many OECD countries, Australia has long had a net positive migration rate, meaning that Australian society is as ethnically and culturally diverse as it’s ever been. In fact, according to the Australian Human Rights Commission, one in four of Australia’s 22 million people were born overseas and nearly 20% of Australians speak a language other than English at home.

While this made Australian society a rich cultural tapestry, it does pose problems for healthcare providers. If your organisation is based in an area of high lingual-diversity, how do you cater to everyone regardless of their first language? Obviously, it’s deeply impractical to expect administrative staff to pick up the slack, and even if they could, it’s still very unlikely you’ll be able to cater to everyone.

Happily, as patient self-check-in systems have become more popular their capabilities have increased. Many self-check-in systems offer inbuilt translation and language modules, as well as easy-to-use interfaces that require little input from staff – removing traditional language barriers and making it that much easier to provide equal access to your services. 

However, language isn’t the only barrier to successful check-in. Your check-in process should also be mindful of visitors with disabilities, such as deaf or visually impaired patients. As with language, modern technology can help you do this: many self-check-in kiosks now include touch screens, audio aids, and options for visual aids. The result is that we’re fast approaching a point when healthcare organisations can cater to all patients, regardless of their needs. Not just a boon to patient satisfaction levels, but also an important benchmark in the healthcare sector’s drive to be more inclusive.

4. Lack of Privacy

Finally, a common patient complaint we’ve come across in our work is the lack of privacy afforded by traditional check-in processes.

It’s not hard to understand why being asked to loudly state one’s name, address, and date of birth within earshot of everyone else in the waiting area is a cause of concern for many patients. As a society we’re more data-conscious than ever before, so requiring people to announce their personal details is understandably seen as a throwback at best.

Providing self-check-in all but eliminates this concern; patients securely enter their details themselves ­– whether online, via a mobile app, or kiosk – removing the need to announce any personal information at all. If that sounds ludicrously simple, it is, but it’s also something many of our clients have found is a quick patient satisfaction win.


The check-in process can be a real stumbling block for healthcare organisations, and where many go wrong is in assuming that chaotic waiting rooms and mildly annoyed patients are an inevitable part of the healthcare experience, but they needn’t be.

Patient check-in is one of the first opportunities you have to boost patient satisfaction, and it’s also the aspect of healthcare most within your control, so it’s well worth getting right. Something as simple as providing a means for patients to check themselves in can help set your organisation apart as one that understands even the smallest patient concerns – great for patient satisfaction and even better for your standing in a crowded healthcare market.

To learn more about patient self-check-in can improve patient satisfaction, as well as tools for improving patient engagement and experience throughout your organisation, visit our solutions page.

Find out how to prevent patients from cancelling appointments in our useful guide:


How to keep patients from cancelling appointments

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