Automating Patient Check-In: How you can get started

Physician’s Practice reports in its August issue that self-service medicine, driven by electronic patient-entered histories, is improving patient outcomes. Touch-screens—shiny, user-friendly devices—are finally making their way into the doctor’s office. The new fad in start-up clinics is to place a touch-screen at the front desk to check-in patients, collect co-pays, take the patient’s picture, and document the medical history and chief complaint. These touch-screen computers (similar to an ATM without the bulk or the cash) are small, smart, easy to use computers that can integrate with your EMR and PM software to update the daily schedule and patient ledger

 Patient Check-in Electronically
Touch-screen patient check-in kiosks, like this one made by SeePoint Technology, are showing up in more physician waiting rooms.

The Physician’s Practice article is partly based on the research conducted by the Mayo Clinic which studied the impact of computer-aided patient histories. The Mayo Clinic concluded that:

Traditional history taking has serious deficits. Clinicians forget and miss essential historical items or record incomplete data. Questionnaires provide structure to an interview but are not comprehensive or personalized. Patient being interviewed by computers give more complete information and more sensitive information…the computer does not replace the clinician but provides a checklist.

One such system is provided by Instant Medical History, the leading provider of patient interviewing software and services, which delivers its service through a web-based—vendor branded—interface. The patient’s history can be collected through the doctor’s website or through a computer in the waiting room.

When the patient presents with a cough, the software asks the following questions:

  • How long have you had a cough?
    • 1-3 days, 4-6 days, Etc.
  • Have you had a recent cold, flu, or cough that seemed to improve and then worsen?
    • Yes, No
  • Do you cough all day long?
    • Yes, No

Each answer prompts another question designed to build off the previously collected information. If the patient presents with chest pain, the software asks the appropriate questions of location, duration, and severity. IMH has developed more than 6,000 unique questionnaires with more than 50,000 questions in all.

There are many different ways to deploy a computer assisted patient history. Most EMRs will provide some functionality at the point of care for documenting medical history, but a select few EMRs provide this through a satellite computer in the patient waiting room. The next iteration involves touch-screen patient kiosks which allow the patient to securely and privately update their demographics, pay the co-pay, scan their insurance ID cards, and complete a medical history and chief complaint evaluation.

MTBC is currently Alpha testing a patient touch screen kiosk using the IMH patient history evaluation software as an integrated feature of MTBC’s free EMR. Watch this space for updates, screenshots, and hands-on demonstration videos.