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Streamlining patient services

Jamestown Regional Medical Center says it is streamlining patient visits by adopting kiosks that will allow patients to check in for appointments.

Jamestown Regional MC.jpg
Jamestown Regional Medical Center says has plans to streamline patient visits by adopting kiosks that will allow patients to check in for appointments, eliminating the task of having to wait in line to have office workers do it for them.
Image: Courtesy of JRMC
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Technology is supposed to make life easier. Case in point is what Jamestown Regional Medical Center is doing to streamline patient visits.

The medical center is adopting kiosks that will allow patients to check in for appointments, eliminating the task of having to wait in line to have office workers do it for them.

The goal is that the kiosks will streamline the patient experience and take some load off the shoulders of office staff.

Other hospitals in the region, such as Sanford Health, have already done something similar. “Many clinic locations feature kiosks or tablets to empower patients to check-in for appointments and update their information on their own, without waiting in line at the registration desk,” said Dr. Doug Griffin, vice president and medical officer at Sanford. “This same technology also enables patients to check-in online prior to their appointment and are then sent a bar code to simply scan at one of these kiosks to notify the care team that they’re here and waiting.

“We are working to expand this technology even further to include auto-arrival for those that opt-in, which leverages geolocation and a patient’s mobile device to automatically check them in once we recognize they’ve arrived at the clinic.”

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Jamestown Regional will start with one kiosk, according to President and CEO Mike Delfs, but it likely will grow that number to several more over time. He said the adoption of the kiosks is the result of the hospital listening to patient requests.

In essence, patients have said they’ve experienced other places of business that provide self-check in, why doesn’t the hospital?

“The idea is we're trying to meet patients based on their needs,” Delfs said. “We're listening to the patients. That's what really has gotten us to look at this.”

The kiosks, which are an entirely new venture for JRMC, will likely be placed first in its specialty clinic, an area that Delfs said is far less common to have kiosks, noting they’re typically more common in family medicine practices.

“Kiosks are far less common in specialty care areas,” he said. “And so that's a little different. It's not that we're cutting edge, that we are the first one in the nation to be doing that, but it is less common to do that in specialty clinics.”

Besides helping patients, there is another benefit to installing the kiosks: It will help office workers, freeing them to take care of other matters.

“If they spend a little less time doing that (checking in patients), then we have more resources to devote to something else, whether that's helping people with insurances or a variety of other things that desk does,” Delfs said.

It can especially be helpful during times of staff shortages, during a day when someone is out sick or over a longer period when positions are waiting to be filled.

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“We're like every other health care organization right now coming out of COVID,” he said. “Most health care organizations do have some struggles with staffing. We've been able to adequately get the work done, but we struggled with trying to get people in and being fully staffed. And so it certainly would help with that. But I think even more important for us, what this would help with is it would be able to give us a little more time with that core staff and get some of the things done that are a little bit slower getting done right now. What comes to mind for me is some of the insurance authorizations that we have to do. The benefit is being able to direct work far better and far more efficiently.”

Kiosk will work something like this: Once at the kiosk, the patient enters her or his name and date of birth, just as they would when speaking with a real person they’d be registering with. Once that information has been entered, the patient will have the chance to verify. It will then ask questions, such as if the patient’s address is correct, etc.

Also, once a patient’s insurance card has been scanned by a real office worker, the patient can keep up on any updates through the kiosks. Delfs said they’re looking at the possibility of kiosks eventually being able to scan insurance cards during a patient’s first appointment.

He describes using the kiosks as a step-by-step process similar to what a patient would go through with a real person at the front desk.

“How do you get in to see the doc and how do you check all the boxes to do that?” Delfs said. “It's very, very similar to the process that happens right now with a person; it's just you get inquiries on the screen asking you to do each thing.”

Delfs said the first kiosk is already on order and he expects it to be installed and ready to use this summer.

Griffin, at Sanford, said kiosks are one sampling of the larger technology suite that the caregiver utilizes for its patients and staff. Among the offerings are online scheduling, virtual care, self-rooming and real-time surgery tracking. And, “like most health systems these days, Sanford Health offers an online portal for patients to partner in managing their care. They can see lab results, view provider notes and visit summaries, message their care team, pay online and so much more.”

He said: “Investing in technology and creating digital strategies that support a higher level of service and exceptional patient care is very important to Sanford. For us, it’s not just about efficiencies gained and innovation for innovation’s sake, but rather more so about improving the experience for our patients, our people and our communities alike.

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“Today’s patients expect health care to offer the modern technological conveniences afforded in literally every other area of their life. The difference in health care, though, is that we have the ability to use these otherwise novel technologies to relieve a very real burden – no matter how small – from those in our care.”

Related Topics: ALL-ACCESSHEALTHCARE
Andrew Weeks is an award-winning journalist who has reported for a number of newspapers and magazines. He currently is the editor of Prairie Business, the premier business magazine of the northern plains. The magazine covers various industries and business topics in the Dakotas and western Minnesota.
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