From time to time, we have to go to the doctor. Sometimes it’s for a routine physical, and other times it’s because we are unwell. Sometimes, we are taking another person for whom we are responsible. When we arrive there, it is not uncommon to be handed a clipboard with various forms to fill out, or to confirm that the information they contain is still correct. It may be the only place we ever see a clipboard these days.
Are We Having Fun Yet?
Imagine the lines of people we would have at airports if each time we arrived to take a flight, we were handed a clipboard with forms to fill out before could be given a boarding pass or allowed to proceed through to security. What a nightmare that would be! Instead, we are able to check in online before we even leave home, print our boarding pass, and with a simple proof of identity get into the process of modern air travel. And if for some reason we can’t do this online in advance, then there are convenient kiosks which allow us to check in and print our boarding passes right in the terminal.
This is so great for the airlines, that they often post someone out near these kiosks just to show you what to do if by some reason you are confused. This is easier for the airlines than staffing long ticket counters with the number of people it would take to do it the old ways.
Works for Air Travel, Why Not Healthcare
I’m probably not telling you something that you don’t already know, but folks have noticed how these two systems differ and there have been a lot of attempts to use technology to improve the process of checking in to see your doctor. A number of companies have come up with kiosk systems or iPad apps that allow patients to use the same technology that we use so much in other areas of our lives, to handle the details of checking in. It’s not only a differentiator, it has been shown to improve patient satisfaction scores. And of course, this is just looking at it from the patient’s perspective (always a good place to start, by the way). From the practice’s perspective, done properly this reduces the workload on the administrative staff, who no longer have to translate/transfer handwritten paperwork into the practice’s computer systems. Heck, some systems even notify the patient if there is a balance due from a prior appointment or a co-pay for this one, and will take payment right then, right there. All things considered, using technology to improve patient check-in seems like a win-win to me.
So why isn’t everyone doing this? For now, it is probably a bit of inertia, coupled with the fact that there are so many challenges on the healthcare executive’s plate that this one may not seem that important. However, if you look over your shoulder at just how fast our use of technology has changed in the last decade (or even the last five years), it’s clear that in the future we will be making extensive use of technology for everything from check-in to virtual appointments.
I find the prospects pretty exciting!