Self-Service Kiosks: Good for Patients, Good for Your Practice
Thursday, November 17, 2016
Posted by: Alyssa DelPrete, AAOE Communications
This is part two of a two part article on self-service kiosks and their impact on time of service collections, staff efficiency, and patient experience.
In part one, two practice executives--Lisa Warren, CPC, MSHA/MBA, CEO of Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center, and Barbara Sack, MSHA, CMPE, Executive Director of Midwest Orthopaedics, P.A.--discussed the increase in collections their practices experienced after implementing kiosk technology.
In addition to improved collections, Warren and Sack also describe the affect kiosks have had on staff efficiency and patient experience.
Increasing Staff Efficiency
The automation of self-service kiosks allows for increased efficiency for a practice’s front desk and business office.
Warren shares that her practice’s average check-in time is just two minutes, 13 seconds.
She comments that part of the reduction in a patient’s time at the front desk occurs as a result of the past due balance appearing on the kiosk. “If [patients] are standing in front of a person they generally expect a high level of knowledge and interaction, but in a computer it’s a whole lot quicker.”
In addition to front desk efficiency, Sack emphasizes the positive effect the kiosk system has also had on the billing office. Prior to adopting the system, the process of transferring a patient’s payment to the billing office was lengthy and vulnerable to human error. Front desk staff would take the payment, compile the documentation of the transaction, and place it into a bin. The bin’s contents were then either delivered to or collected by the business office just once or twice a day. Some payments would not appear in a patient’s file until the next day.
“Now, every credit card transaction made at the kiosk is automatically and instantaneously posted to our practice management system,” Sack says, “which saves a lot of time and potential keying errors for both the front desk and the business office.”
Improving the Patient Experience
Although the self-service kiosks provide a number of benefits for a practice and its staff, Sack and Warren have also observed positive reactions from patients.
“If I get a comment about the kiosk it’s positive,” Warren remarks. “We have a younger population and the greeter is great to keep a personal touch.”
Despite the fact that their average patient age is younger (Warren says the average age is 43), older patients have caught on quickly to the technology. “When older patients come in, they may be intimidated by the process, but then they’re proud of themselves for doing it. Then the next time it’s not an issue.”
Sack described similar patient responses. “There are some [patients] who need assistance the first time, which is fine. We have a front desk person to help with it. Then after the first time they’re fine.”
Despite initial concerns by staff that people would find the kiosks impersonal, Warren adds, “A number of patients have actually commented to doctors that they find it cool, and it shows that their doctors are up to date with technology.”
Lessons Learned and Advice
Implementing any new system can present challenges, and Sack stresses the importance of having a willingness to adapt your system as needed. “We’ve made lots of changes since we first implemented. I appreciate very much the fact that we are able to do that and make big changes and improvements as we go because no system is going to be perfect for all groups just out of the box. And you can’t know what you will encounter until it happens.”
She also says practices should recognize the impact the kiosk system can have not only on the front office, but also on the business office if your system auto-posts payments in addition to providing insurance and benefits verification. “Most people I talk to don’t know or think about that,” Sack explains. “They’re simply looking at front desk processes, and I think it’s a mistake to not look at this as a way to increase efficiency as collections as much or more as a way to increase efficiency of front desk.”
Warren predicts more practices will be implementing kiosk technology in the next few years. Although she was the first practice in Alabama to add self-service kiosks, she now knows of four more practices who have them. “The patient population is trending toward this. Even in the older population, technology is not foreign to them anymore.”
Sack offers similar insight. “I think that [self-service kiosks] will be in a few years probably as common as EMRs are.”