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4 tips for engaging patients in digital check-in technology

Lauren Thames, Vice president product development Clearwave
Written by: Lauren Thames

Many practices are upgrading to digital check-in systems that help streamline workflows for staff and reduce patient wait times. However, encouraging patients to move to a digital-only check-in process can be challenging.

For example, some patients—and staff—fear the loss of human interaction at the start of their patient visit. Older patients may be apprehensive of working with a system they have never used before and patients with children in tow may be irritated by the perceived hassle of having to manage their check-in experience on their own.

Millennials, on the other hand, are the least difficult to engage. In fact, millennials often are pushing healthcare organizations to adopt digital technologies, including those that can be accessed on their smartphones.

The key to engaging patients across generations in using digital check-in platforms is to answer a key question: “What’s in it for me?”

For healthcare organizations, the benefits of self-service platforms for patient check-in are clear: improved patient throughput, increased efficiency, and increased point-of service collections. Moving to digital, self-service check-in can reduce check-in times to just three minutes or less—even for clinics with a high proportion of elderly patients, such as Baptist Health’s Montgomery Cancer Center, where the average age of patients is 62. But for patients, the upsides to self-service check-in may not be immediately clear.

There are four ways healthcare organizations can encourage patients of all ages to adopt digital check-in technologies.

Strategy No. 1: Emphasize the time savings self-service check-in provides for patients and their families. For example, self-service check-in can help busy parents reduce time spent in a waiting room with their children and provides caretakers with the ability to check in older adults faster, decreasing the stress of a visit. Signage that highlights the speed of the self-service check-in solution and its impact on patient wait times will make the value clear before the patient logs on. Consider electronic signage that posts current wait times—and thank patients for helping reduce wait times for all through electronic check-in.

Strategy No. 2: Encourage staff buy-in. When staff aren’t convinced of the value of self-service check-in, adoption rates are lower and the risk of dissatisfaction with a new process increases. As with any new initiative in a healthcare setting, change management is the key to staff and patient buy in. Take the time to fully explain the value proposition for self-service check-in with both patients and staff. Show staff how the tool works, and explain how self-service check-in not only will benefit patients, but also team members and the organization as a whole.

When Marietta Eye Clinic in Marietta, Georgia, moved toward implementing digital check-in, both patients and staff were distrustful of the technology, fearing the system would replace interactions with staff. Instead, they found the system provided greater time for staff to interact with patients in more meaningful ways, increasing both patient and staff satisfaction.

For an even smoother transition, consider hosting an open house for patients to come and try out the new system.

Strategy No. 3: Ensure the solution is easy to use. In evaluating a self-service platform, look for a solution that is simple to navigate and read. While self-service check-in offers opportunities to introduce patients to other services the organization offers, keep questions that do not pertain to the patient’s visit to a minimum. Patients will not want to feel as though they are being given a sales pitch at the point of contact. When patients do need assistance, make sure a front-office team member is available to help and does so with the highest level of customer service in mind. Additionally, ensure patients are given plenty of advanced notice that the check-in process is changing. This will lead to higher satisfaction ratings as patients will feel involved in the process and won’t be shocked or surprised at the change when they come in for their next appointment.

Strategy No. 4: Consider mobile check-in options for those who wish to check-in from their smartphones, such as millennials. It’s important to meet patients where they are in their healthcare journey, particularly those who are tech savvy. Given that 77 percent of Americans own smartphones and 95 percent have a cell phone of some kind, imagine the impact mobile check-in could have on front-office efficiency and patient throughput.

Developing engagement strategies around digital check-in makes good business sense for healthcare organizations. Consider that manual transactions in healthcare cost $3 more per transaction than electronic transactions. With the amount of data entry that typically takes place at the point of check-in, that’s an incredible savings opportunity for healthcare organizations. From that perspective, adopting self-service check-in isn’t just about increased patient convenience. Given its impact on wait times and the potential to reduce costs of care, adopting self-service check-in is favorable, not only for your practice, but also for your patients.