Has the hospital kiosk become redundant in the age of apps?
Disruptive and innovative technologies are revolutionising how healthcare is delivered today in India and has brought in a tremendous growth to the sector. We have seen a 15% growth in CAGR for health sector since 2011, which is expected to reach USD 280 billion by 2020. However, providing access to quality healthcare for 1.2 billion plus population is a huge challenge that the country has to deal with. Hence, healthcare facilities increasingly encourage patients to have an active role in their own care. To facilitate patient participation, self-service technologies have been introduced
By: Neelam Jhangiani
Self-service provides patients more control over their own healthcare process. One of the self-service technologies that is increasingly getting the attention of hospitals is the self-service kiosk.
Kiosks are all the rage in retail and service industries, but can healthcare kiosks make a difference for providers and patients? The simple answer is yes, if done right. They give healthcare providers a chance to collect data and automate tasks that gobble up valuable time in the doctor's office, clinic, or hospital. Hospital kiosks are a great tool for healthcare that can be used to improve check-in, registration, way finding, information distribution, donations, and much more. The benefits include improved customer satisfaction, decreased wait times, decreased costs on resources, and overall efficiency and functionality.
The impact of patient satisfaction
Patient satisfaction is the heart and soul of any healthcare organisation and when medical offices receive poor ratings, it deters new patients and makes a case for lowered funding and employee layoffs. Keeping patient satisfaction scores high wins prestigious awards, increases the amount of current patients, and attracts high quality medical professionals to work at the facility. Medical offices and facilities are increasingly seeing the benefits of managing patient satisfaction scores by providing self service resources that cut down on wait times, medical staff resources and paper costs. "Kiosks are a great tool that can be used to improve registration, information distribution and way finding," says Girinath Menon, Executive Director-Operations, Asian Heart Institute. The benefits gained are patient's satisfaction, patient engagement, reduction in patient waiting time, eradication of human intervention, overall efficiency and functionality.
Data collected from a study noted that on average, people age 20 to late 30 gave the lowest patient satisfaction scores. This is the age group most comfortable with technology, giving this group the highest adoption rates for self service technology. In the context of adding a patient check-in kiosk, this would mean that the same group who gives the lowest patient satisfaction scores (more likely as a result of having to wait) are also the most likely to use a kiosk to check into the doctor's office. Sharing his views on the benefits of hospital kiosks, Deepak Venugopalan, COO, Manipal Hospitals, adds, "Kiosks have helped us drastically to reduce queues and have ensured faster & easier check-in especially for a first-time patient."
Self-help kiosks serve multiple purposes at Apollo Hospitals too and have been a useful addition in the way they offer information and services to patients and their families. "While there was an initial hesitation to use kiosks to seek information or provide feedback, increasingly, we find their usage to have increased manifold over the past few years," says Dr. Karan Thakur, Vice President, Business Transformation & Communications, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi. The practical benefits brought out by these kiosks include the ease of accessing information, reduction in language or inter-personal barriers that may exist and the availability of information at all times to patients adds Dr. Thakur.
Self-service kiosks help a healthcare organisation in eradicating dependability and increasing overall efficiency. With directory capabilities, these kiosks can help alleviate waiting room congestion and help direct patient flow to the correct locations within a hospital or healthcare facility
Putting hospital kiosks to work
Strategic location of kiosks in hospitals goes a long way in bringing out the best possible use of services extended by kiosks. Apollo uses signages to guide patients towards these kiosks and also encourages the staff to highlight the benefits of using these information portals. Further, during briefings to patients, the hospital informs them on the presence of these kiosks to seek information that patients may need or to provide feedback.
At a busy registration desk, a kiosk would help patients to register faster without having to wait for long durations. At Asian Heart Institute, a small flowchart is attached, which shows all the steps to use the kiosk machine. "We encourage usage of kiosk by educating patients that it reduces waiting time and gives us the opportunity to serve better with instant feedback," says Mr. Menon.
Another best example of putting these kiosks to work is in a doctor's office or clinic. The kiosks enable patients to check in and update their health records, freeing up office staff and giving the doctor or nurse a more complete record of the visit before he or she even sees the patient. This makes the actual doctor-patient encounter more meaningful for both sides, potentially improving the clinical outcome as well as patient satisfaction. Since the world is moving towards digital space therefore, keeping self-service kiosks helps a healthcare organisation in eradicating dependability and increasing overall efficiency. With directory capabilities, these kiosks can help alleviate waiting room congestion and help direct patient flow to the correct locations within a hospital or healthcare facility.
There have been varying costs for purchase of capital equipment, maintenance contracts and AMC's for kiosks. Manipal Hospital finds it a worthwhile investment considering the fact that the cost is just 40000 INR per kiosk. "About 97% of our customers use the kiosk, with 6 kiosks in the front office used for registration and separate kiosks for registration in International patient areas," points out Mr. Venugopalan.
Maintenance and upkeep of kiosks is sometimes an issue for healthcare facilities and Apollo addresses this through a robust AMC contract at their facility. Also, providing up-to-date information on the kiosks is important. Redundancies do creep in from time to time, which needs a dedicated team to help update and keep the content fresh and relevant. "There is wariness towards this technology from certain sections of patient base, which we look to resolve through the use of vernacular languages and also walk-through by our staff," says Dr. Thakur.
Mishandling of kiosks especially with children in vicinity is a challenge faced by Asian Heart Institute other than software upgrade that occurs once in a while.
Are apps replacing kiosks?
Hospital apps are also a great way to engage with patients and studies show that they want to use them. These apps are not only convenient, but they allow patients to work with their providers and can result in a much more favorable outcome to their medical issues and overall health. "Apps offer versatility and reach over fixed kiosks," Dr. Thakur says. This is a major advantage that apps have. However, physically located kiosks have their purpose intact even in the day and age of apps.
For example, Apollo uses kiosks for issuing visitor passes which no app can replace. Also, outside of critical areas to provide relevant information to patient families, which may not be easily accessible on an app. Kiosks currently do retain the advantage to provide real-time, specific and immediate information of particular use or need while navigating or using a hospital system.
Many have an ease of usage of kiosks, as the public has inculcated this habit from shopping malls and airports. The state-of-the-art technology associated with kiosk and an app architecture are also completely different. The target for both app as well as kiosk audience are different. These cater to different objectives, which may have fine overlaps but cannot be redundant to each other. "Our observation is that as much as apps have caught up as a trend, there are fewer patients opting for the app," says Mr. Venugopalan. With around 12,000 patients using the kiosk per month, Manipal Hospitals also has its own app for patients, where they can access medical records, book appointments and pay advances.
To sum up, it looks like kiosks are here to stay at least for a little while longer!