Self-service kiosk use grows

April 10, 2009

Efficiency and patient satisfaction are fueling the growth of self-service kiosks in ambulatory and ER settings.

Patient self-service kiosks are being used with growing frequency in hospital ambulatory settings and emergency departments, according to experts.

According to Jared Rhoads, a senior research analyst, and Erica Drazen, managing partner of Emerging Practices, CSC Global Healthcare Sector, there are two things in the healthcare landscape that are fueling interest in patient kiosks: the need to improve patient satisfaction; and the need to be as efficient as possible.

“Patient expectations for service, quality, and convenience have risen markedly in recent years,” Drazen says. “Consumers see firms in other service industries such as banking and airline travel use technology to make the consumer experience faster, easier, and more pleasant, and wonder why healthcare providers do not do the same. The need to increase patient satisfaction is especially true for providers in competitive markets, where differentiation is needed and a good reputation in the community is vital.”

Kiosks are not meant to replace staff, but rather give staff members more time to spend on complex patient issues and other value-added tasks, says Rhoads.

However, most self-service patient kiosks are not implemented for the purpose of achieving a hard ROI. Benefits primarily come in the form higher patient satisfaction ratings from reducing waiting lines and allowing staff to spend more time with patients who need it, according to the experts.

“A good rule of thumb for ambulatory settings is that two kiosks can provide the same amount of added capacity as one additional FTE receptionist,” she explains. “In emergency department settings, where kiosks are used for check-in and basic triage, vendors typically suggest adding one kiosk per 25,000 patients seen year.”

Estimates of cost savings from kiosks are hard to come by. However, most implementations run from $25,000 to $100,000 for deployments of two to six kiosks, and most implementations are considered successful, suggesting that the kiosks at least pay for themselves.

Another financial benefit is the improvement that providers experience in the collection of outstanding balances and copays. The vast majority of providers who implement kiosks make registration and check-in via the kiosk optional.

At Kaiser Permanente, Southern California region, a patient satisfaction survey found that nearly all patients who checked in via a kiosk had a successful experience. In addition, over 75% of members felt that checking in via the kiosk was faster than checking in via a receptionist. Most said they would use the kiosk again.

At the Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, kiosks were deployed to the emergency department to enable quicker check-in and assist with triage.

The department saw an immediate increase in their Press Ganey patient satisfaction rating from 74% to 77% over a period of time in which their patient volume increased 8%.