As the healthcare industry in Australia becomes increasingly market-led and consumer-focused, providers are quickly having to understand that the familiar challenge of standing out from the competition is now integral to their survival – but how does patient check-in play a part?
After previously examining ways that better patient wayfinding can help your healthcare organisation appeal more to potential patients, it’s time to explore how one of the greatest challenges faced by healthcare providers can be tackled by improving the next step in the patient journey: check-in.
What is Digital Patient Self-Check-In?
Until recently, patient check-in was an utterly joyless and impractical process. Essentially, it was waiting in a queue to briefly distract an overworked receptionist and let them know you’d arrived for your appointment – before joining another queue, this time to see a doctor or nurse.
The arrival, and subsequent proliferation, of digital self-check-in kiosks has been a real game-changer though, and not just for all the front-office staff who can finally give their phones the attention they loudly demand.
Now, patients can check in for appointments in a couple of seconds with nothing more than a couple of taps, their date of birth and perhaps a patient reference number.
But digital check-in kiosks are so much more than just a better way for patients to announce their arrival for an appointment. Thanks to the huge flexibility provided by digital healthcare solutions, kiosks are easily integrated with tools to greatly enhance your systems, including your wayfinding network, patient calling process and patient engagement strategy.
How Does Digital Patient Self-Check-In Differentiate You from Competitors?
There are some problematic issues that will always be a part of the healthcare experience, from long waits and overworked staff to being crammed into a waiting room with a horde of potentially contagious sick people.
The check-in process regularly manages to intersect all these annoyances and can therefore set a negative tone for the upcoming appointment. Instead, providers should aim to use the check-in process to establish a more enjoyable patient experience, thereby establishing a more positive tone from the outset.
Delivering a frictionless check-in is also the first step in:
- Establishing a healthy patient flow
- Preventing bottlenecks in the patient journey
- Avoiding delayed appointments
- Reducing waiting times
All of which helps improve patient satisfaction, demonstrates excellence as a healthcare provider and increases an organisation's reputation – not only helping patient retention, but boosting acquisition rates too.
What Does Good Digital Patient Self-Check-In Look Like?
While checking in with a human receptionist has been the standard for decades, digital self-check-in is now becoming widespread in Australia. However, simply installing self-check-in kiosks doesn't guarantee success and there are many ways for providers to get this element of the patient experience wrong.
I’m sure we can all recall a time when self-service technology has ended up making a simple task far more difficult than just interacting with another human.
So, what does digital self-check-in look like when providers get it right? Here are some examples:
Simple & QUICK
As we just mentioned, most people have an example of self-service technology gone wrong, whether that’s dealing with automated customer support that can’t understand your accent or getting stuck behind an unresponsive car park barrier, with nobody around to let you out.
For digital self-check-in kiosks to be successful they need to actually make it easier for patients to check in. This includes ensuring the process is less time-consuming and requires fewer questions than talking to a receptionist.
Something that is commonly overlooked when developing digital healthcare technology is the importance of user-experience (UX) – not to be confused with patient experience. Simply put, if checking in using your digital kiosk is confusing enough that patients ask for help, it’s too complicated. This means it's time to go back to the drawing-board.
This is very straightforward and should be a given for any organisation that’s considering introducing new technology – but who hasn’t seen somebody melt down when dealing faulty equipment?
For digital self-check-in kiosks this means the touch-screen has to be highly-responsive, the software needs to be bug-free and the connection to your bookings system needs to be flawless.
Admittedly, no digital technology manages 100% up-time, but if you’re regularly using the old IT standby of turning your kiosk off and on again, you really need to rethink your solution.
Friendly and Helpful Front-Office Staff
Your front-office staff likely provide the first human interaction your patients have as they enter your facility. This moment can be vital to the patient experience, with a friendly greeting far better for patient satisfaction than a rushed hello, or even worse, being ignored completely.
Implementing digital self-check-in kiosks is a sure-fire way to lessen the burden on front-office staff, giving them time to perform far more valuable services than just recording who has arrived for their appointment.
Staff won't just have more time to spare for warm welcomes, they'll also be more available to support patients with other queries or perform the emotion labour they're never given the credit for. And, if patients are having issues with the kiosk or there's a long queue, your receptionist can simply check them in manually.
Integration with Patient Engagement Tools
Patient engagement is now key to running a successful healthcare organisation and, obviously, central to this is collecting information from patients. Without this data, providers will always struggle to meaningfully improve healthcare delivery and deliver more satisfying patient experiences.
As one of the rare occasions you have a captive audience, patient check-in is the perfect opportunity to collect information. Digital kiosks often come pre-loaded with patient engagement modules, so delivering surveys is effortless and built-in analytic tools even tally up the results and decode the data on your behalf..
It' simple for patients to opt-out it they don't want to take part but, with the right design, they won't even notice they're taking a survey because the process feels like a natural extension of the check-in experience.
Easy to Find
If your self-check-in kiosk is harder to find than your front-office staff, you’re going to have a lot of people queuing up to check in there – and they likely won’t be pleased if you simply point them in another direction.
Clearly signposting your kiosks increases their use and decreases the likelihood of people getting lost when visiting your practice or hospital. To further help patients navigate your premises, you can also integrate patient wayfinding tools, like interactive maps.
In addition, making your kiosks easier to find will decrease the chances of visitors running a few minutes late for their appointment and this will delight your practice manager endlessly! If you don't believe us, just ask them how they feel about the cumulative total of every appointment that's delayed by “just a few minutes”.
We can’t stress enough how important it is for everybody to have access to healthcare and part of this is ensuring that no patients feel confused, alienated or disenfranchised in anyway when they attempt to check in.
This means you need to assess whether your current check-in process caters to:
- Patients who don’t understand medical language
- People with disabilities
- Non-native English speakers
- Anybody who may struggle to physically access the kiosk
Remember, simply ensuring you signpost where help can be found and front-office staff have time to lend a hand can often be enough to solve some issues.
In the modern healthcare industry, setting yourself apart from competitors can be the difference between success and failure. By improving your check-in experience and upgrading to a digital self-check-in solution, you can tackle a common pain-point for patients.
It’s also a great opportunity to introduce patient engagement tools to a touchpoint that has been shown to increase response rates. The information gathered further empowering you to improve patient satisfaction and differentiate your organisation from other providers.
To find out more about how digital self-check-in technology can help increase patient engagement and improve patient experience within your organisation, download our ebook on the subject.Back to blog