Patient touchscreens are making their way into clinic waiting rooms, reducing waiting time and stressful queuing
IM&T Planning and Development
Countess of Chester Hospital NHS
The introduction of the Department of Health’s 18 Week Patient Pathway (18WPP) directive states that a referred outpatient to secondary care must be seen by a consultant (or suitably qualified person) and will have diagnostic results and started indicative treatment within 18 weeks. In hospitals, extra capacity has had to be found to manage outpatient clinical appointments within this reduced timeframe by increasing the volume of appointments with consultants and specialised clinicians. Frontline reception staff have subsequently seen growing queues and patient frustration, and there has been a notable increase in the turnover of reception staff through stress-related illness or leaving for less pressurised work.
One way to manage this demand would be to employ more staff; but that would require more desk space, reducing valuable clinic and waiting areas. An increasingly popular alternative solution is the use of Savience Patient Check-in Touch Screens. Prior to purchase, we conducted a short pilot study that demonstrated very clearly that there was significant reduction in check-in time and queues if patients were encouraged to use the touchscreens. On average, the existing check-in process took 2.5 minutes to complete, while patients finished the touchscreen questions in 30 seconds.
Having now “gone live” in most of the Outpatient Departments at the Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, the screens have calmed the previous atmosphere of frustration, with positive feedback from patients, reception staff and clinicians.
Using the touchscreens, patients can quickly check their own demographic details recorded on the hospital’s patient administration system (PAS). They have the option to agree to this information or ask for changes to be made; this saves considerable receptionist time. Additionally, incomplete demographics (blank or incomplete text fields) can be highlighted so that the patient knows that this information will be required by the receptionist prior to seeing the clinician.
To ensure confidentiality the touchscreen has a privacy filter screen: to access their details the patient has to confirm their identity and their appointment using the following prompts: gender, month of birth, day of birth and postcode. The patient is then asked to confirm their home address and contact details: GP details, next of kin, ethnicity, religion and marital status. If any of these details need updating, the patient is asked to speak with a receptionist rather than changing the details themselves; this ensures that the data remain of good quality.
Additionally, the patient can choose to be reminded of future appointments by free mobile phone text messages.
The patient is then given onscreen instructions advising them which clinic area they should wait in prior to their consultation.
Statistically, the study calculations show that use of the touchscreens can save up to 4,800 reception hours over a year on checking-in of patients, so reception staff can manage their workload more efficiently – for example, providing a follow-up appointment complete with letter; whereas in the past the patient may have left the hospital without an appointment (to follow in the post) as the receptionist was too busy checking-in patients.
Besides a return to the calmer and more collected clinic reception environment that used to be experienced before the onslaught of the 18WPP directive, equally important is that each attended appointment generates income – known as Payment by Results (PbR). This income should recoup the operating costs of the outpatient department and other services, and should further encourage maximising capacity in outpatient appointments, including the move toward evening and weekend clinics.