9 Ways to Improve Patient Check-In at Your Practice

1. Chart Patient Flow

One of the most effective ways to improve the patient check-in experience is to actually chart the flow of patients from where they park through to arriving at the check-in desk. To make sure you are seeing the full picture, draw a map of your practice and highlight the path patients would typically walk.

You can also add the path patients walk from the check-in desk to their seat in the waiting room, and their seat in the waiting room to the doctor’s consulting room.

Looking at your flow map, consider these questions:

  • Is there a way of removing obstacles (eg. seating) to enable a more direct path?
  • Is the route logical to patients, or is there a chance they could get lost or end up in the wrong place?
  • Does the flow have any crossover points? If yes, consider planning instead for a traffic flow that moves patients sequentially through a visit without crossing paths with other patients or retracing steps. This ensures patients don’t get in the way of one another, which can make the practice feel crowded. It also makes patients feel they are making progress because they aren’t backtracking.
  • Is there a way of incorporating separate check-in and check-out areas, even if the functions are handled by the same staff members?
  • Is there enough space for a patient to have privacy so they can comfortably discuss financial or health matters at the check-in desk? If not, how can the route or furniture be rearranged to allow this?

2. Put Up Obvious Signage

Using your flow chart from above, walk the path patients take from a typical parking bay to the reception desk. Is there any additional signage you could add to make sure patients know the fastest route to reception?

For instance, can you add a sign to the lobby or car park to direct patients to the correct floor or door? Can you add signage within your practice that clearly distinguishes check-in from check-out, or segregates patients by the type of service they need?

Keep in mind signage can take many forms, including: footprint stickers on the floor; free standing poster boards; branded floor mats; window lettering and graphics; and even velvet rope queue barriers.

3. Exterior and Interior Design

In HotDoc’s 2017 Patient Survey of 1,140 patients, it was shown that 22% of patients found the clinic they currently attend by seeing it on the street. This was more than both Google and online directories combined and illustrates the importance of making the right visual impression by ensuring your clinic’s outdoor signage, landscaping, exteriors and paintwork are all up to standard to deliver a clean, modern feel.

The standard of your reception is also important to making the right impression on patients. When assessing your interiors, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does the layout feel spacious or cluttered?
  • Does the paint and furniture provide a fresh or dull feel?
  • Does the lighting feel sterile or inviting?
  • Is the signage current or out-of-date?
  • Does the look and feel of the reception reflect your practice values?

You may even want to consider bringing in an interior designer to give you some ideas on quick fixes to brighten things up a bit. While this may appear like an unnecessary cost, it’s important to remember that the look and feel of an environment has an enormous effect on not only how patients feel but also how your staff feel.

An environment that feels dull and dated drains staff, while an environment that feels new and inviting invigorates staff. This is an important point because staff who feel good, deliver a better patient experience than those who don’t.

4. Install a Check-In Kiosk

One of the best ways to provide a superior patient experience during check-in is to offer patients the choice to check-in digitally, either through a check-in kiosk or mobile app. While check-in kiosks are not designed to replace reception staff they do allow patients the option to skip the front desk if they choose. This is an important point considering in HotDoc’s 2017 Patient Survey 35% of patients said they preferred to check-in on a kiosk or mobile app.

As well as reducing congestion at the front desk and providing patients with choice, digital check-in helps free up reception staff so they can spend more time with individual patients.

This said, choosing a check-in kiosk provider can be challenging. To help you make a decision consider the following 5 features of a good check-in kiosk:

  • Patient’s can update their details. This means patients can manually update their phone number and address using the kiosk with all updates automatically made to the patient record. This not only saves reception staff time, but also ensures cleaner patient data because those who know the details are the ones inputting them.
  • Patient details are partially hidden. Some kiosks allow you the option to hide a certain number of digits from the patients information. For instance, 04*****587. This protects a patient’s privacy from others in the waiting room who may be looking on.
  • Mobile check-in. Consider it a big bonus if your check-in kiosk provider offers a mobile option in addition to a kiosk. While this may not seem like a necessity now, it will certainly be one in the future, allowing patients to check-in using their mobile from their waiting room seat, or even before entering the practice. Not only is this convenient for patients, but it also paints your practice as an innovative, forward thinking clinic.
  • Let patients ‘know their place in queue’. With 83% of patients considering not knowing the wait time to be the biggest frustration in the waiting room, you may also want to consider choosing a kiosk provider who gives you the option to let patients know their place in queue at the time of check-in. Having the ability to turn this feature on and off is an even better option.
  • Promote preventative health services. Some check-in kiosks also give you the option to target individual patients with customisable promotional messages. For instance, a message about cervical tests could be displayed to women who are 25-75 years old. A message about falls prevention could be displayed to males and females over 65 years old.

5. Greet Patients Within 30 Seconds

When entering a practice most people are developing their first real impression of you and your clinic. This is why it’s important that you greet every patient with a smile, a wave or a verbal acknowledgement within 30 seconds of them walking through the doors. This goes for those patients who check-in via a kiosk as well — a simple smile or wave is enough to make them feel welcome.

8. Understand Why Patients May Be Difficult

If you do have a patient who is rude or difficult to talk to, don’t take it personally. Practice Consultant, Nicky Jardine, explains when “patients are sick, stressed or have a loved one going through something serious they sometimes don’t realise how rude they are being or the impact they are having on others. It is important to listen to patients and not get into an argument, even if they are being difficult”.

One strategy for dealing with difficult patients is to adopt Starbucks’ Latte Method, taught to all Starbucks team members for when dealing with difficult customers. The ‘Latte’ anagram stands for Listen to the customer, Acknowledge their complaint, Take action by solving the problem, Thank them, and then Explain why the problem occurred.

7. Roaming Concierge

If you’re looking to give your patients the gold standard of check-in experiences you may also like to consider using a portable check-in device such as HotDoc Concierge. Concierge allows your reception staff to get out from behind the desk and personally check-in patients from the comfort of their chair.

Utilising a standard iPad, Concierge allows staff to update patient details, make appointment notes, explain additional services, and let patients know their place in queue, with all changes transferred to your appointment book in real time.

8. Introduce Additional Services

When patients are checking in you have a good opportunity to introduce them to some of your additional services, such as care plans, diabetes risk checks, skin checks, cervical screening tests, mens health checks etc.

HotDoc’s Clinical Director, Magali De Castro, shares:

You have a captive audience at the time a patient is checking in. They’re thinking about their health so they’re a bit more open to health promotion and health prevention messages. This said, you want to be helpful, you don’t want to give them a truckload of questions

9. Digitise Your Patient Forms

Another way to reduce feelings of stress associated with the rush to complete patient forms at check-in is to digitise your forms. This allows patients to complete forms in their own time from the comfort of their waiting room chair. Digital forms also give you the opportunity to send forms to patients prior to their appointment so they have plenty of time to complete them. Plus they reduce the need for your reception staff to re-enter details into the computer.

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