Update #3: Letting go for a new beginning

March 8, 2015

After reviewing the previous features in this Living Case Study series, it seemed oddly inappropriate to summarize the decision-making processes, roll out and results of the use of self-service kiosks during patient check-in at Baptist Health. Those elements are very impressive, and healthcare administrators ought to give serious consideration as to how their facilities can implement self-service kiosks for their patients. However, it seems to me that a larger point deserves consideration; the mindful reluctance to approach fixable problems in healthcare.

We have all encountered healthcare Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) who have an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it attitude,” even when there are viable alternatives. This mindset is manifest in their holding onto awkward and antiquated processes like the traditional patient check-in routine. They hear their staff complaints about not having enough time to really bond with their patients and to develop a stronger level of ease for them at check-in, but many administrators think nothing can be done to make things better.

“It’s just the way it is.”

They clearly see how their patients are not getting the front-end satisfaction or the Meaningful Use of their health records.

“You can’t please everybody.”

They don’t comprehend how “banking” or “gas station” technology can be used effectively with sick populations and their families.

“That wouldn’t work here.”

To have such an attitude about a process like patient check-in is unfortunate. To have such an attitude beyond patient check-in is dangerous, and it is one of the reasons our industry is struggling to cope with emerging technologies and changing consumer tastes.

Whether our industry is ready or not, technology from other business fields will come into healthcare facilities and almost instantly fix problems that have been considered historically as “the price of doing business.” The self-service check-in kiosk created by Clearwave, Posiflex, Acuant and Image Manufacturing Group (IMG) is just one example of such a solution. Like the kiosks at Baptist Health, more interdisciplinary approaches need to be made by administrators to address many of the institutionalized problems their staff and patients encounter every day. Vendors and clinicians must start poking their heads out of their foxholes and seek assistance from other sectors. Ideas and processes from the financial, retail and academic sectors can take hold within healthcare, and some very interesting – and useful – results can spring forth. Again, just look at the Baptist Health Living Case Study.

It took Baptist Health a great deal of courage, vision and humility to implement self-service kiosks at check-in.

What if patients had refused to use the technology?

What if staff resented the notion of losing their job to a machine?

What if the kiosks did not work properly and caused even more clerical and logistical problems?

These sorts of considerations have given pause to too many in healthcare. The industry as a whole ought to let go of such fears and consider new beginnings to their problem solving. They ought to look at other pain points like patient check-in and try to draw similar connections to successful technology applications outside of healthcare with the intention of “discovering” new solutions to old problems.

Patients have been checking themselves in at United and Delta Airlines kiosks for years. Let’s hope healthcare looks at success stories like the one at Baptist Health and realizes that the time for such thinking in our industry is now – not years from now.

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