Update #2: Like playing jazz

Jan. 27, 2015

Many of the struggles within healthcare today are not created by outside factors such as government regulations or changing care models, but rather by a simple lack of vision. There are far too many work-related inefficiencies that have been institutionalized within the industry that could be remedied if more open-minded approaches were taken. One such pain point for many healthcare organizations is the patient check-in process.

In the first update to this Living Case Study series, I made the claim that healthcare is currently in a “sweet spot” where available technology, organizational needs and consumer tastes have converged in such a way that the use of ATM-like technology at the point of patient check-in could reap enormous benefits for a facility. But to say that this opportunity is solely based upon good timing would be a shortsighted. A tremendous amount of vision and collaboration was required as well – two ingredients that are often lacking during project planning and implementation in our industry.

As we learned in the previous installments of this Living Case Study Series, the self-service kiosks at Baptist Health are the result of a consortium of companies pulling together their expertise and resources. This convergence was not done in a casual fashion. A single vision was shared and agreed upon by each company. This vision required disciplined preparation and thorough planning by all parties. There was no hierarchy created where one company possessed a higher status than the rest. Each company respected that the others had spent years working to achieve the highest level of success within their given fields and that their pursuit of excellence continues with every new project in which they participate. Even today, each constituent constantly builds upon its skill sets and remains focused on expanding the reach of its solutions.

In a former life, I worked in the music industry and I was always impressed with how well jazz musicians worked with one another. At first, I attributed their inclination for cooperation with the improvisational, seemingly haphazard, nature of the music they create. However, as I spent more time observing professional players, I learned that pushing forward music that was created just a few instances ago by a fellow musician requires a high degree of collaboration and support. As I spent more time observing professional players, I began to understand that jazz is not, and cannot be, a free-for-all. Each player must recognize his or her strengths and limitations as well as the strengths and limitations of their band partners. Mistakes are seen as opportunities to move in new directions. Successes are never attributed to a single person. The only thing that truly matters is their common goal of producing a fulfilling and pleasurable experience for their audience. As I examine how the consortium’s members came together to create their self-service kiosk, I am reminded of this collaborative spirit.

When I initially interviewed Brian Stone, Chief Financial Officer, Clearwave, he said, “We are a kiosk-software company. We don’t manufacture hardware. To achieve our vision of an effective kiosk patient-registration solution, we needed to piece together partners like Posiflex, Image Manufacturing Group and Acuant. Without their talents, we would have never accomplished what we have.”

One of the first partners the Clearwave leadership sought was Posiflex, a maker of point-of-service (POS) and industrial touch terminals and hardware. “Our initial kiosk hardware vendor was a good company,” said Stone, “but the kiosk it created, from a look and feel aspect, was just a steel box. It was industrial grade, which is important, but it didn’t have much pizzazz. They are one of the largest manufacturers of kiosks, but they didn’t really have a tabletop version or the flexibility to add new features or functionality. Its components were limited, and many are very expensive. We needed something special, and that’s when we were lucky to learn that Posiflex shared our vision for a new patient experience at check-in.”

Posiflex has designed and manufactured POS touch-screen terminals for over three decades, holding over 30 patents.  Their all-in-one computer is nearly indestructible. “It can survive a major fire. It can be submerged under gallons of water and still operate perfectly,” said Stone. Posiflex terminals are fanless, come in various configurations and sizes, and they are capable of having privacy filters added. “When you add those important components along with their reliability and serviceability, it was a no-brainer for us to ask Posiflex to collaborate with us,” said Stone.

The need for another company to join the consortium sprang forth when Clearwave began to ask the question: Is there technology available that would enable our kiosk to scan a patient’s driver’s license?

“We sought out and evaluated the most reliable vendors in the field of optical character recognition (OCR). At the end of our search, it was clear that we ought to approach Acuant [formerly Card Scanning Solutions] as a partner,” said Stone. As a leading image-processing and OCR software company, Acuant has one of the best solutions in the market. “Within the healthcare environment, we saw the need to read government-issued identification,” said Stone. “We not only wanted to read the ID, but we also wanted to enable our kiosk to extract information as well.” This function helped the consortium to simplify the patient check-in process. Instead of requiring someone at the kiosk to type out their first name, last name and date of birth, the person can just scan all of that information using Acuant’s OCR technology, the same kind of technology used for scanning passports. This feature eliminates multiple screens of information that a patient may have to type during check-in. It also increases the accuracy of the information being gathered, because using OCR software is far more accurate and reliable than having a patient pecking and typing on a kiosk.

The final partner to join the consortium was Image Manufacturing Group (IMG), a design and manufacturing company that produces interior and exterior signage, kiosks and customer engagement solutions within a wide array of fields such as sports, academics, retail and government. Stone said, “When people are ill, or with their loved ones who are ill, they don’t want to be left wandering around a hospital lobby looking for help. We needed to make sure patients were drawn to the kiosk. ”

Common sense tells us that in a hospital setting, patients will not automatically feel at ease approaching what may look like a black-box computer and a piece of scanning technology sitting on a table. Many would ask themselves, “Okay, am I supposed to go to that? What am I supposed to do?” 

“We saw the level of customization and functionality that IMG offered to their clients; clients such as United Airlines and Delta,” said Stone. “We felt confident that they would be able to integrate the Posiflex unit along with the Acuant scanner in a very attractive and effective fashion.”

The members of the consortium wanted to find ways to have patients know just by looking at the kiosk what they are supposed to do, and they wanted something more aesthetically pleasing than a black box. With IMG’s expertise, their kiosks draw immediate attention and provide higher levels of functional ease. Practices can insert their logos and their facility’s color schemes so that the kiosks are seen as natural extensions of their environment.

“In addition to the high ease of use for our patients, the self-check-in kiosks have also helped our staff to reduce their involvement with large and time-consuming activities, such as dealing with duplicate records,” said Jeri Pack, Director, Revenue Solutions, Baptist Health. At our center, we have a high volume of duplicate medical records and duplicate corporate numbers. That’s a big deal for any facility like ours because a master patient index (MPI) cleanup can cost in excess of $1 million. Our kiosks require nowhere near that level of expense, and they do a wonderful job with these tasks. 

Like seasoned jazz musicians, the consortium members brought together their individual talents and years of experience with a common mission in mind. They created opportunities for one another to display their talents to their audience, and they always understood that their whole team was greater than the sum of their parts. If these collaborative mindsets became more common practice in healthcare, I firmly believe we would experience many, many more success stories of innovative solutions to industry-wide problems.

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