How to Improve the Patient Check-In Process

Back to blog Patient Check-In Patient Experience

Typically, check-in comes very early in the patient journey and is therefore one of the first opportunities you have to deliver an outstanding patient experience . A smooth and painless patient check-in can play a big role in setting the tone for a good appointment and shaping patients’ opinions of you as a healthcare provider.

Conversely, poorly managed check-in processes don’t just lead to dissatisfied patients, they lead to bottlenecks in patient flow, crowded waiting rooms and delayed appointments. All of which are likely to lead to patients swiftly seeking a new provider.

See 9 ways new technology can transform the patient experience in our  infographic.

Here are a handful of tips for taming chaotic check-in processes:

Clearly Signpost Reception and Check-In Areas

Despite often being overlooked by healthcare organisations, patient wayfinding is a vital element of check-in. Far from just being simple signs, your wayfinding network encompasses all the tools and functions that help patients find their way around your facility.

Simply put, if visitors struggle to find your reception, they’ll likely be a few minutes late for their appointment and there’s nothing that pains a practice manager more than the cumulative total of all those slightly delayed appointments.

By clearly signposting your reception area (and self-check in kiosks too, if you have them) you can decrease the likelihood that people get lost when visiting your practice or hospital. This will also help improve the patient experience by preventing the anxiety and confusion caused by feeling lost

Make Sure Your Check-In Process is Accessible and Inclusive

As well as ensuring your patient wayfinding network is clear and concise, it’s important you also consider how you can be as inclusive as possible – including translation and measures to make healthcare more accessible.

Making it easier for minority groups to access healthcare is one of the greatest challenges faced by forward-thinking healthcare providers. If you’ve already transitioned to using digital self-check-in kiosks, some are pre-loaded with translation features that incorporate a wide range of languages. Other examples of how you can make a difference are:

  • Audio-visual aids for patients with visual impairments
  • Multilingual signage throughout your facility
  • Using simple terms like “Ear, Nose, and Throat Care” instead of the equivalent medical language – “Otolaryngology”
  • Integrating symbols like a heart for cardiology or lungs for pulmonology

It’s equally important that your front-office staff are able to understand common languages spoken among your patients and visitors. Simply having someone who speaks their language can often be enough to prevent patients becoming confused, feeling alienated and experiencing disenfranchisement.

Consider Integrating Self-Check-In Technology

One sure-fire method for improving the patient check-in process, is to bring the technology you use into the digital age with self-check-in kiosks.

Understandably, there will be traditionalists who miss queueing up to check in with an overworked receptionist who barely has time between incoming calls to manually enter their patient data into what could only generously be described as “a computer”.

For everyone else, replacing the perpetual bottleneck this caused will be a welcome change and ushering in a brave new world of self-check-in will be a cause for celebration.  

Patient self-check-in provides a much-improved patient experience, empowering patients to confirm their attendance with nothing more than a couple of taps. Not only do some models offer extensive accessibility and translation features, but the highest-quality kiosks also empower patients to have their say via patient engagement surveys.

Pairing self-check-in kiosks with improved patient calling technology is absolutely key to maintaining healthy patient flow, enabling receptionists to see everyone who has checked in at a glance and allowing doctors or nurses to call their next patient directly from their desk.

Better Use of Your Front-Office Staff’s Time

Speaking of the long-suffering souls manning your reception desk, empowering them to focus on tasks with more value than simply checking in patients can drastically improve the check in experience. 

Contrary to public perceptions, front-office staff working in the healthcare industry are not actually malevolent gatekeepers whose sole purpose is it to prevent access to doctors. In fact, they perform a number of tasks that are vital to the smooth running of practices, surgeries and hospitals.

They’re also tasked with huge amounts of emotional labour, often helping families navigate the healthcare system after distressing news and ensuring young adults have access to relevant services. Not to mention dealing with the deluge of abuse they face daily.

By finding ways to reduce the amount of “busy work” front-office staff need to perform, for example manually checking in patients or totting up patient surveys, you free up time for them to complete higher-value tasks, including:

  • Registering new patients
  • Responding to patient inquiries
  • Keeping medical supplies adequately stocked
  • Protecting confidential patient data
  • Queue management


For many patients, checking in for an appointment manages to capture everything negative about visiting a healthcare experience in a single interaction: long queues, overworked staff, poorly thought out processes and ludicrously outdated technology.

By establishing an efficient and frictionless check-in process you aren’t only tackling a long-standing barrier to patient flow through your facility, you’re also actively improving patient experience from the first steps of the patient journey – setting a positive tone for the imminent appointment.

A well-managed check-in process can also be the difference between a calm waiting room and chaos. By investing in digital self-check-in technology you'll likely further improve the patient experience, as well as freeing up your front-office staff to offer a helping hand when require.

For more information on how you can improve patient engagement within your healthcare organisation, download our guide today or check out our infographic.

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