The introduction of self-service kiosks in the reception area of a hospital in Birmingham, UK, has proved a great success by cutting down on patients queuing and on staff time, as well as improving the quality of registration data
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In the UK, an extensive construction investment programme in the National Health Service (NHS) has resulted in the building of many new hospitals and expansion of existing hospitals. These new facilities have brought the concepts of ‘patient flow’ and ‘patient arrival management’ into focus as NHS trusts strive to improve the patient experience on arrival at the hospitals, and also manage the potential increase in people costs needed to support growing patient numbers. This challenge is faced by all hospitals, but new construction and expansion projects have highlighted the need to offer an improved experience to patients.
Blue Prism, a specialist integration and process automation technology provider, has been working with a number of NHS trusts over the last two years to help them to deliver their vision of improved customer care through the use of self-service kiosks. Similar to those in use at airports, the primary goal of kiosks is to improve patients’ experience and help the hospital ensure that their arrival for appointments at the hospital goes as smoothly as possible. Blue Prism’s innovative technology helps organisations manage complex business processes, rapidly and seamlessly linking people and systems together to target dynamic business goals.
University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust is the leading university teaching hospital in the West Midlands. It is one of the most consistently highest-performing trusts in the NHS and has been rated ‘excellent’ for financial management and ‘good’ for quality of clinical and non-clinical services for the past three years by the Healthcare Commission.
The trust (UHB) runs two hospitals – the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Selly Oak Hospital – which provide adult services to more than half a million patients every year. The trust is a regional centre for cancer, trauma, burns and plastics, and has the largest solid organ transplantation programme in Europe. It employs around 6,900 staff.
UHB is undergoing a massive transformation into one of the finest new medical facilities in the UK, with the opening of the new Queen Elizabeth hospital in 2010 – Birmingham’s first new acute hospital in 70 years. The hospital’s striking architecture means that it will be one of the most instantly recognised hospitals in the country. Many new innovations are being introduced, in advance of the opening. One of the critical areas of focus is to improve patients’ experience from the moment they enter the hospital through their whole course of treatment.
The new hospital design assumed efficiencies through centralised functions backed with technology innovation. The challenge to build self-registration systems to handle a large volume of patient flows was taken up by Steve Chilton, UHB’s deputy director of IT services.
Mr Chilton and his team had decided that they needed to build self-service kiosks. He had noted how successfully these had been used in other industries, but also that people experienced frustration when the interface was not intuitive and the data were wrong. He wanted to ensure that a high proportion of patients would use the system, that they would be delighted with how quickly they could get registered and that the data would be correct in the vast majority of cases. This represented a unique innovation for NHS hospitals and demonstrated how the NHS continues to strive to deliver the best patient care possible.
Mr Chilton stated: “The whole patient experience from the moment they enter the hospital to the point of their departure has to be as pleasant an experience as possible, given the circumstances. But we had a real challenge ahead of us: how could we accurately register patients, using technology that integrates with NPfIT PAS [the National Programme for Information Technology patient administration systems] that helps to underpin the patient encounter.”
In the new hospital, a significant consolidation of numerous reception areas is being implemented. This presented a significant challenge in terms of how patient reception and registration could be streamlined and managed effectively and efficiently while ensuring the quality of patient interaction. The hospital’s IT services realised that technology could be used to support the change, but they were constrained by difficulties integrating their automated kiosk solution with the NPfIT PAS.
Blue Prism provided technology that allowed UHB to overcome these difficulties. The objectives of the project were to ensure that the patient registration experience is intuitive, easy to use, fast, accurate and provides a check-in without queues. The touch-screen kiosk needed to be fully and securely integrated with the NPfIT PAS, gaining access to data without compromising the security model. The solution needed to be delivered in a very short time-scale within the financial constraints of the trust. Also, the project had to meet the deadline to have systems operationally tested in 2008 and fully operational by 2009 in advance of the opening of the new hospital in July 2010.
Utilising Blue Prism, the project team, headed by Dean Grinham, IT Services’ program delivery manager, set about building the kiosks and the supporting systems. Dean said: “We wanted first to pilot the kiosks in a local reception area. We needed the system to be proven and reliable for the 2010 opening, so that meant we wanted systems in and working by the summer of 2008.”
This was a very tight deadline and the Blue Prism team needed to demonstrate that the integration was possible. A proof of concept conducted over a matter of days demonstrated to the UHB IT team that the solution worked perfectly. The Blue Prism team and UHB IT then set about designing, building, testing and deploying the integration process in a matter of weeks.
“We were delighted with how quickly we got the data integration process working, and how we were able to design the process to fit within our security model,” commented Dean.
The user interface and self-registration software were built by UHB IT Services, with kiosks being supplied by a third party. The project was delivered on time and within budget.
The user interface is very intuitive, with patients having the option to enter some personal details to verify who they are, or to pass their admission letter under a bar code scanner to confirm their appointment. The user interface can also support multiple languages for those patients for whom English is not their first language, with simple country flags to press to make a subset of languages available for that country. The process is very simple, with the result being a printed out notification to the patient confirming the appointment and giving directions as to where to go within the hospital and at what time. The other outcome is that the patients will have been registered as ‘arrived’ on the hospital’s systems.
If there are issues with the patients’ details or the patients cannot be identified, then they have the option to see one of the registration team members to confirm their details and process their arrival.
The trial ran for two months. A fully operational kiosk was built and deployed in Selly Oak Hospital with the supporting system running from the secure environment of UHB’s IT data centre.
The results of the trial have been impressive. “We are delighted with the positive feedback we have received from the patients and the receptionists, with over 51% of patients using the system and cutting registration time for both the patient and the hospital,” Steve commented. “For a completely new technology this is an impressive result and the team is confident that the percentage of people using the kiosks will rise dramatically with their wider adoption in the new hospital.”
The systems have been developed without compromising the security model and the trust has been able to leverage the benefits provided by the central NPfIT programme. This has provided a sense of great satisfaction to Steve and the team.
Kiosks have allowed data quality to be maintained. Patients whose details are not correct on the kiosk are referred to a receptionist who then immediately changes the details on the core PAS system.
“Blue Prism has allowed us to meet and deliver our own business requirements in the time-scales and financial constraints we needed,” stated Steve. “We are very pleased with the success of the self-service kiosk pilot reflecting the innovative nature of IT Services within UHB.”
Several major projects are now being considered by UHB IT Services to deploy the unique capabilities of Blue Prism technology to processes aimed at improving patient outcomes and the patient experience.
Alastair Bathgate, chief executive of Blue Prism, said: “The new UHB hospital project is a world-class initiative, and I am very proud that Blue Prism formed such a vital link in the innovative solution that UHB IT Services team have produced.
“We have enjoyed working with the team and look forward to future innovations made possible by their vision and our technology.”
• First ever patient self-administration kiosk in a NHS Trust hospital using the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) Patient Administration System (PAS)
• 50% improvement in staff efficiency
• 51% of patients registering with self-registration kiosk
• High satisfaction ratings from patients: No queuing, fast and easy to understand self-registration process
• Patient flow twice as fast for self-registration versus traditional reception approach
• Rapid system integration with
• Adherence to the NPfIT security policy and IT standards
• Improvements in data quality on PAS system
• Implementation completed in less than three months
The concept of self check-in for hospitals has been very well received by patients and staff. The new hospital is set to roll out a full suite of self-service kiosks. Blue Prism has continued to work with UHB on a number of other patient care initiatives which require integration with the various clinical and administrative systems.