Self-Service Kiosks: Improving Collections, Efficiency, and Patient Experience
Wednesday, November 9, 2016
Posted by: Alyssa DelPrete, AAOE Communications
Collecting patient copays and past due balances can pose a major obstacle to front desk efficiency. When staff have to repeatedly call, mail, and track down patients who have balances to pay, the time and money spent can quickly add up.
To address this common problem, some practices have looked to technology options to lift the burden from front desk staff while also making the process simpler for patients. One such solution is a self-service kiosk that allows patients to check in, scan their insurance card, and pay their copay—all before they find their seat in the waiting room.
Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center added self-service kiosks to their practice in February, 2015. “I can’t say enough good things about it,” says CEO Lisa Warren, CPC, MSHA/MBA.
Warren reports that a significant amount of copayments are conducted at the kiosks. “Of the payments taken at the kiosk, 60% are copayments and 40% are past due balances,” she explains. She shares that 80-90% of overall copayments are done at the kiosk.
Barbara Sack, MSHA, CMPE, Executive Director of Midwest Orthopaedics, P.A. says their practice has been utilizing self-service kiosks for a year-and-a-half. Since implementing the system, Sack says the practice has experienced an increase in time of service collections. She shares that a recent monthly report revealed a considerable amount of collections received through the kiosk, while other types of automated payment collections showed no change.
“That tells me that front desk collection of copay, which would’ve fallen into the daily deposit category before, has increased substantially, because the daily deposit category continues to be about the same,” she explains. “These are people who are paying not just for copays but are also being asked to pay any balances they have. Astonishingly, when the kiosk asks them to do that, they seem inclined to do it.”
Warren acknowledges a similar trend. “I think people see [payment] as a non-optional step when they see it at the kiosk.”
While Warren and Sack noted similar success with using self-service kiosks, they described nuances in their systems based on their practice’s needs.
Since different kiosk systems offer different features, Warren advises, “Thoroughly investigate what you want the kiosk to do.”
For her practice, the kiosk is a tool for simple check-in, insurance verification, and payment. At the kiosk, patients select their appointment type, choose either English or Spanish for the language, and then scan their driver’s license. If the system recognizes their name, it will pull the information they have previously provided. If they are not already an established patient, they will be asked basic demographic questions. Once that step is complete, they scan their insurance card. The system then verifies their insurance and shows them their copay, as well as any past balances due. Meanwhile, the front desk has a dashboard that notifies them if an insurance card is not verified so that they can handle any issues.
A human element that the practice has incorporated is a greeter. “When the patient is presented to the office, we have a full time employee who is at the front door that we call our greeter,” Warren says. The greeter asks the patient which doctor he or she has an appointment with and then directs them to the correct kiosk. “She watches to see if anyone is struggling at the kiosk and goes up to help and walk patients through the process.”
For their kiosk system, Sack explains how the process begins with insurance verification the moment a patient schedules an appointment. “While we are making a patient’s appointment we get their insurance information at that time. Right then as soon as it’s entered, the software will check to verify that the insurance is active and valid.”
The system also provides information about patients’ coverage and benefits, such as their copay and whether they have a high deductible.
This information goes into a dashboard, allowing front desk staff to easily check whether any patients scheduled for the day have invalid insurance. Because of this, Sack says, “When the patient comes in the people at the front desk already know, based on the dashboard that they have, whether or not they need to ask the patient for new information. If not, they can direct them to the kiosk.”
Once at the kiosk, patients will go through the regular intake paperwork needed by the practice. Once all of their paperwork is complete, the kiosk will ask for their copayment and any balances due.
“It does a lot of things in an automated manner that previously would all have been done at the desk,” Sack remarks.
This is part one of a two-part article. Read part two to learn more about how self-service kiosks have impacted staff efficiency and the patient experience.