Self-Service Kiosks Help Hospital Reduce Patient Wait Times, Paperwork, And Anxiety

The system, which supports multiple languages, has cut check-in time by 25% for first-time patients and 75% for return visits.

When patients of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center check in for same-day surgery or preadmission testing, they no longer need to wait a half-hour or more to be called by hospital registration workers to complete paperwork.

That's because in April, the 671-bed teaching hospital in Newark, N.J., rolled out self-service kiosks, or MediKiosks, from vendor Galvanon Inc. The kiosks speed up the check-in process, gather necessary signatures, and can even collect co-payments, says Newark Beth Israel Medical Center VP and CIO Angelo Schittone.

Not only is the new automated check-in process quicker and more efficient, it greatly reduces the amount of cumbersome registration paperwork needed, not to mention patient anxiety levels that tend to mount when people need to wait before a medical procedure, Schittone says.

"We've got 100% compliance" in use of the kiosks by patients who are eligible to use them for their specific outpatient procedures, he says. Check-in times for first-time patients have been reduced by 25% and by 75% for subsequent visits.

In the past, patients needed to sign in and then wait for administration workers who called them individually to complete registration paperwork. Now, using wireless tablet PCs, three or four patients at a time can check in while one hospital worker is nearby to answer questions or correct errors--in insurance information, for example--collected a day or so before during preregistration processes.

Galvanon offers a tablet PC version of the check-in kiosk, which Newark Beth Israel Medical Center uses, as well as desktop and traditional freestanding versions of the kiosks.

The kiosks also support multiple languages. Right now, the hospital's kiosks support English and Spanish, but the medical center also is likely to roll out Portuguese and Haitian versions of the electronic check-in forms, Schittone says. Legally, hospitals must provide information in languages that are spoken by 10% of their patient populations, he says. Spanish is spoken by more than 10% of the medical center's patients, while Haitian and Portuguese are spoken by about 7% and 5%, respectively, he says.

By September, several of the medical center's other departments, including oncology, pediatric surgery, pediatric and adults clinics, and rehabilitation, will also roll out the kiosks. About 70 to 80 outpatients a day use them, but once the technology is available at the other departments, more than 400 patients a day will check in electronically, Schittone says.

That will save huge volumes of paperwork for the hospital and patients, such as those with cancer receiving frequent chemotherapy or radiology treatments, he says. "If they come in three times a week, that means they have to fill out the paperwork three times a week. With the kiosks, they can just electronically sign in because the information isn't going to change each time they come in," he says.

The system helps Newark Beth Israel Medical Center's staff become more productive, too, Schittone says. That's because staff cuts a few years ago stretched registration workers pretty thin. Now hospital staffers are available to provide additional services to patients, he says.

The kiosks feature smart-card readers that eventually will be used by the medical center to read insurance and co-payment information directly from patient smart cards, he says. Also, the kiosks can accept credit-card transactions for the hospital to collect co-payments.

In the future, Schittone says, Newark Beth Israel also will likely roll out kiosks that can help patients navigate through the medical center's huge campus.

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