Self-serve, patient check-in kiosks wave of the future for front office

It's the 21st century, time to think about replacing patient information clipboards and the associated paperwork with an automated system that increases accuracy while saving time and money.

There's nothing in the world as much fun as paperwork, and the clipboard is the birthplace of so much of it.

Still, as hard as it may be to believe, some practices would prefer to find an easier, faster, more accurate way to obtain and track patient information than the clipboard.

Consider, for example, the case of Horizon Eye Care. Chief Executive Officer Rod Roeser, in a presentation at the American Society of Ophthalmic Administrators meeting here, explained how self-serve patient check-in kiosks have changed the face of his front office.

Horizon Eye Care has 21 physicians practicing in six locations throughout the greater Charlotte, NC, area. Following a 6-month pilot program, Roeser recently deployed self-serve kiosks manufactured by a company called Clearwave ( http://www.clearwaveinc.com/) at all its locations. Clearwave is part of the Marietta, GA-based Center for Health Transformation, which calls itself "a high-impact collaboration of private and public sector leaders committed to creating a 21st-century intelligent health system that saves lives and saves money for all Americans."

Patient check-in

According to Roeser, the kiosks are very similar to the self-serve, check-in kiosks at the airport. In the case of the kiosks at his practice, patients swipe a card instead of sitting down with a clipboard. The cards are compliant with the standards of the Workgroup Electronic Data Interchange ( http://www.wedi.org/), a group that seeks to improve the quality of health care through effective and efficient data interchange and management.

When a patient swipes his or her card and enters a personal identification number, the kiosk recognizes the patient and "populates" the system with that patient's personal and medical information. The kiosk also sends a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) 270 inquiry, regarding benefits eligibility and coverage, to the patient's insurance company.

"The insurance company then responds by sending a HIPAA 271, which tells the practice everything it needs to know about the patient," Roeser said. "It tells us about their co-pay, their co-insurance, their deductible, and how much of that has been met-to the penny."

The objective behind the kiosks is to reduce expenses by attacking overall cost drivers such as administrative inefficiencies. Verifying eligibility status, for example, can be a time-consuming chore for an office administrator. The kisoks, however, connect directly to more than 1,000 insurance companies and provide an automated response in 10 seconds, according to the manufacturer. Other potential benefits: