Healthcare providers of all types – physician’s offices, urgent-care clinics, and large hospital systems – have found that touchscreen technology has many applications in the medical field. From helping a lost patient easily find his way to his doctor’s office in time for their appointment, to having a new mother digitally sign discharge papers for herself and her newborn. Touchscreen devices can streamline processes, save money, and increase patient satisfaction.
For patients to get the care they need, they first have to get to their destination. But hospital systems, medical office buildings, and clinics can be tricky to find their way around.
A study performed at Emory University Hospital once found that wayfinding challenges cost the hospital system over $220,000 per year. The consequences include missed appointments, negative feelings associated with the care provider, and decreases in employee productivity when they have to stop their work to give directions.
Many health care providers are revolutionizing wayfinding by implementing digital wayfinding tools, among them touchscreen interfaces.
When touchscreen devices are used for wayfinding purposes, they can help address some of the accessibility issues that arise with analog signage.
Among the accessibility concerns that touchscreen devices address are:
- Physical accessibility – Screens can be configured so that wheelchair users can easily view their content from a seated position, and some mounts allow for screens to be tilted to meet patient needs further.
- Auditory accessibility – Patients with hearing loss might be reluctant to approach an employee for directions. A touchscreen kiosk allows them to the opportunity to obtain directions in a visual format instead.
- Visual accessibility – A touchscreen device provides a variety of options for users who have visual disabilities. They can adjust brightness or contrast, increase text size as needed, or even click a button to hear text read aloud.
- Linguistic accessibility – Hospital systems often need to provide wayfinding resources in multiple languages based on the population they serve, which can make for crowded, difficult-to-read signage. A touchscreen device allows users to select their language as part of the wayfinding process.
Patient Registration Kiosks
Whether at a doctor’s office, an urgent care clinic, or a major hospital system, touchscreen kiosks are often used as patients sign in. They can enter their personal information, indicate their symptoms, provide their insurance information, and even make payments.
One of the advantages of using touchscreen technology to register patients is that it allows for a simplified check-in process. Patients benefit because the process takes less time overall, and providers will enjoy self-check-in because it allows them to free up staff to do other, more challenging tasks. A case study performed by Kaiser Permanente found that 75 percent of patients felt that “checking in through the kiosk is faster than checking in through a receptionist.”
Touchscreen devices can be used to ask screening questions. Before an appointment even begins, more information can be gathered by asking additional follow-up questions based on the initial response. For example, a patient who answers “yes” to a question about flu symptoms can then be asked whether he or she received that year’s flu vaccine.
An additional benefit, especially for outpatient medical services, is that kiosks can be configured to allow for payment.
Speak to Patients in Their Language
From small clinics to major hospital systems, providers often encounter patients who are most comfortable in a language other than English. A touchscreen device allows them to select their preferred language when checking in, then fill out the intake forms accordingly.
For patients who speak a less-common language, or who have lower literacy levels, visual cues and symbols can also be used to help guide them through the process, as recommended by the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Automatically Gather Data
In years gone by, medical staff had to spend valuable time on data entry, copying handwritten patient information from intake forms into a computer so that it could be stored as part of electronic medical records (EMR).
With an electronic check-in kiosk, patients can use the touchscreen to enter their data with an on-screen keyboard. There are two advantages to this process: one, information can flow directly into the provider’s EMR system, populating the patient’s file. This frees medical staff up to do other tasks. The second benefit is that when patients enter their information directly, using a keyboard, providers bypass the inevitable errors that come with deciphering handwriting.
Provide Information or Tips to Patients
An additional benefit of using touchscreen technology for the check-in process is that providers can incorporate key information or advice for the patient population.
For example, during flu season, providers can include a screen that informs patients of the availability of flu shots within their facility and another one reminding them of the availability of hand sanitizer.
The use of a touchscreen device paired with flexible, easy-to-use software means that messages can be quickly modified to deal with emerging situations. They can also be customized by departments so that visitors to the maternity wing get a different message from those checking into the emergency room.
Protect Privacy and Personal Health Information (PHI)
When setting up a patient check-in system, there are two aspects that health care providers need to consider. The first is the patients’ desire for privacy when talking about sensitive health issues. The second is the rules and regulations that govern the handling of personal health information (PHI) to ensure that any patient’s information is kept confidential from anyone who doesn’t need to see it as part of treatment.
One benefit of using touchscreen devices for patient check-in is that patients may prefer not to have to verbally disclose or clarify information that they may find embarrassing or personal.
However, touchscreen devices offer an additional advantage when it comes to protecting personal health data: by eliminating peripherals such as keyboards and mice, they are less vulnerable to attack from those looking to compromise electronic records systems.
Additionally, check-in kiosks can be set up in a variety of ways to maximize patient privacy while checking in. Some providers install touchscreen devices inside individual carrels to provide patients with an additional layer of security. Another option is the installation of a privacy filter which prevents other people in the vicinity from being able to read the screen.
Human Resources Kiosks
Streamline Employee and Vendor Tracking
Hospitals and clinics have many employees coming in and out, and both physical security (for staff as well as patients) and information security are paramount. Using touchscreen technology to set up check-in kiosks for contractors and employees alike offers many benefits from an administrative perspective.
The touchscreens at an employee check-in kiosk can be used for a variety of purposes. When an employee signs in to a facility, the kiosk can also be used to scan their identification or snap a picture to create a temporary badge. Kiosks can also be used for time-tracking purposes so that employees’ work hours can be recorded for payroll.
Touchscreen technology can also be used to gather information about outside vendors and contractors. Hospitals, clinics, and doctors’ offices often have vendors entering to meet with employees, make deliveries, and fulfill other necessary duties. Connecting a touchscreen device to credential management software allows providers to ensure that vendors and contractors meet any requirements they have established, from having completed a background check to having received the necessary vaccinations.
Increase Employee Engagement
Employee engagement isn’t just nice to have. Studies have shown that engaged employees perform better, leading to better clinical outcomes. A Gallup study once found that nurse engagement is the top predictor of variations in mortality rates across hospitals.
Touchscreen devices can be used to increase employee engagement in a variety of ways. Just as patient-facing kiosks might incorporate screens with health tips or other advice, employee-facing kiosks can also display pertinent information. For example, the employee check-in process might include screens highlighting standout employees, information on new benefits available, or even a survey question designed to assess employee satisfaction.
Employees can also use kiosks to get round-the-clock access to HR information. In a clinical environment, where employees work a variety of different schedules that often don’t overlap with regular office hours, immediate access to information about benefits, time off, scheduling, and more is vital.
Inpatient Monitoring and Care
Touchscreen technology is often used as part of the wayfinding and check-in process, but it also has a role to play when a patient has already been admitted to the hospital.
A touchscreen monitor can be installed in patient rooms within a hospital setting, or in exam rooms at a doctor’s office or urgent care clinic. These touchscreen devices can be used to communicate information about a patient’s condition from one employee to another when a shift changes, increasing consistency in care.
An added benefit of touchscreen devices is that they incorporate a keyboard, allowing for typed rather than handwritten text. As healthcare providers reach the end of a shift, their hands get tired from having to write so much, and their handwriting gets messier, leading to increased requests for clarification and even causing medical errors.
Touchscreen technology can also be used to quickly display medical imagery for the benefit of both the patient and other providers. Without needing peripherals such as a keyboard or a mouse, providers can pull up records, exam results, or images and zoom in so that everyone can see key information. They can even use their finger to draw on the image, calling attention to whatever they need a viewer to focus on.
Personalize the Hospital Experience
Personalization is a growing trend in many industries, and healthcare is no exception. By delivering a personalized experience, providers can increase the possibility that patients will feel good about the care they’ve received.
Where do touchscreen devices fit in? Touchscreen technology can be leveraged as part of the inpatient experience by fitting patient beds with touchscreen devices. Different applications can be integrated into this device, so that a patient might be able to order a meal, call for a nurse, or change the TV channel, all without moving from their bed.
These same touchscreen devices can also be used to display information that’s relevant to patients based on their condition. New mothers staying in the maternity wing of a hospital might see information on the hospital’s breastfeeding group; patients recovering from major surgery might be able to watch a video about wound care.
Reduce Paper Usage
Providers often have mountains of paperwork to deal with when it comes to inpatient care, much of which requires a patient signature.
Portable touchscreen devices can cut back on paperwork by allowing providers to obtain digital signatures from patients using a stylus. Clinical staff can also use the highlighter function to call patients’ attention to critical sections of the documents they’re signing.
Once the document has been signed, completed documents can then be incorporated directly into the EMR system, and a copy can be emailed to the patient who signed.
Reduced paper consumption is not only eco-friendly, but it can mean significant cost savings, especially across a large hospital system.
There’s another benefit to handling documents digitally: when documents are never printed out in the first place, there’s less risk of exposing personal health information if a paper isn’t properly disposed of.