By Laurie Sorrenson, OD, FAAO
April 6, 2022
The front desk is the first thing patients experience in your office when they arrive for an exam. If the check-in process is inefficient, it will be unpleasant for patients and costly for your office in staff time. We recently renovated to add patient check-in kiosks. The redesign of this area of our office, and the new check-process it has enabled, has greatly benefited the patient experience and our level of efficiency.
Creating an Efficient Check-In Process for a Multi-Doctor Practice
We run five doctors at a time with 20-minute appointments. Multiple patients frequently show up at the same time. We tried changing the schedule to have appointments be five minutes apart, and that wasn’t possible.
So, I started looking for a way that more than a couple patients could check in at the same time without having to wait. I couldn’t put five employees at the front desk just to wait for the next surge to come in.
The answer for us was to completely tear out the old check-in desk and put in a smaller, streamlined, two-person desk and four self-service check-in kiosks.
Making It Happen
The transition to self check-in took us two years of planning with our practice management software provider, Crystal Practice Management, and the vendor we purchased the kiosk stations from, RetailOne. The hands-on work to make the transition, however, happened over one weekend, Saturday night through Sunday night, working all night long. Our patients were mostly unaffected by the process of this transition. We had just a couple days right before installing the kiosks when we had patients come through the side entrance to get checked in at the back of the optical.
No training was required from a back-end perspective or patient perspective to use the kiosks. They’re super-intuitive and easy. Our staff usually does not need to help patients use the kiosks. It’s so easy for our staff that our front desk is more efficient with two people now than it was with three people before.
Minimal Cost for Big Gains
Most offices will do well with one kiosk station. You can even get the station set up on top of an existing desk or shelf instead of creating a standalone kiosk. Crystal Practice Management provided the necessary software and RetailOne designed the kiosk station for us. You can buy single-kiosk or double-kiosk setups.
RetailOne cost for physical stations like ours: $2,495 each or 2X $2,495 for the doubles version.
Crystal Practice Management software cost:
Desk Version-Purchase $2,400 Per Kiosk. Kiosk Yearly Support $300
Desk Version- Lease Setup fee $300 Per Kiosk $75 per month
An Immediate Positive Impact on Efficiency
I have done a ton of renovations, including a build-out of a new office, but replacing our huge, three-person front desk with a two-person desk with four kiosks made me worry.
Fortunately, it was an immediate success. Two weeks after we implemented the kiosks, we had a day with four fully-booked doctors with three patients per doctor coming in each hour. We only had one front-desk person that day (one had quit and was not yet replaced and the other was ill). We did not have any spare techs or opticians to help. Yet it went without a hiccup.
We had other employees relieve the front-desk person, so she could go to lunch and take bathroom breaks, but outside of those needs, she did not need help. Thanks to the kiosks, having just one staff member at the front desk did not slow our efficient process of getting patients to the doctors in the exam rooms quickly. I was so relieved and happy. It worked better than I could have imagined.
A hectic day with just one person manning the front desk has happened again, and it went well that day, too. My employees told me that about 80 percent of patients can check themselves in with no help from staff.
Kiosks Help Us Reach Our Efficiency Goals
In addition to overseeing the check-in process, our front-desk team escorts the majority of patients to the history room where they wait with the patient for the tech to arrive if the tech is not already waiting. Our goal is for check-in to be two minutes or less and for the patient to wait in the history room two minutes or less. We do 95 percent of history online, so the preliminary process is also quick. Our goal is to get patients into an exam room within 10 minutes of arriving and within 15 minutes for new patients.
I can picture self check-in kiosks being a good solution for new practices. Imagine one front-desk employee being on the phone, or helping in the optical while a patient arrived, and having that patient be able to immediately get checked in rather than having to wait for the busy employee to help them. Technology that enables patient self-service makes it possible to put off hiring an additional employee.
An Improved Office Environment
The other thing our new front-desk area does is it gives us more “breathing” room when a patient walks in. Our previous desk was massive and too close to the front door. This feels so much better. Less cluttered and more calm and peaceful.
Other Articles to Explore
Our design word we used when building our office seven years ago was “breathe.” This renovation goes right along with our design concept.