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Prime Time for BYOD Innovation: The Patient Check-In Experience

Chris Seib is the chief technology officer and co-founder of InstaMed, a healthcare payment network used by payers, providers, and consumers. Before founding InstaMed, he was an executive in Accenture's Health and Life Sciences practice. He been involved in strategic development efforts regarding government health initiatives, consumer-directed health plans, and direct connectivity between providers and payers. He is a named inventor of multiple patents and patent applications held by InstaMed.
There is an old adage that says first impressions are lasting, meaning that someone’s reaction to how they first encounter a person or organization is very hard to overcome, especially when the impression is negative. With this in mind, is the first impression patients get from checking into a provider’s visit really the best impression? Unfortunately, probably not. 

The current check-in experience is usually done at the time of service and includes filling out forms, verifying insurance eligibility, and possibly collecting a copay, which takes considerable time. This process works when patients are early and prepared with the necessary items for their visits, but that is a best-case scenario. 

Instead, think of a parent who must fight traffic to get to a pediatrician office with 3 kids full of energy after a day at school or in daycare. The odds are that it’s not going to be convenient or easy for that parent to check in. Even a mundane inconvenience, like filling out the same paperwork every visit, leaves a bad impression. 

The manual and paper-based check-in process is usually the first step in a healthcare payment experience that patients increasingly find frustrating and confusing. Other examples, according to the National Opinion Research Center, include the more than 50% of consumers who received a bill for an amount they believed would be covered by their health plan or had an amount due for more than expected, and more than 25% of consumers who had a medical bill turned over to a collection agency in the last year.

When patients are dissatisfied, healthcare organizations feel it through patient attrition and decreased revenue. In fact, the 2017 Consumer Healthcare Payments Survey found that 65% of patients would consider switching healthcare providers for a better healthcare payment experience. Additionally, hospitals with excellent Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems(HCAHPS) consumer ratingshad a net margin of 4.7% compared with just 1.8% for hospitals with low ratings, according to Deloitte.

The data clearly demonstrates that the patient experience is long overdue for a transformation. Providers need only look to their waiting rooms for inspiration on how that transformation should take shape. There is a good chance that those waiting rooms are full of patients on their smartphones, as 77% of Americans own a smartphone. 

For providers who serve an older demographic, there is likely little difference in the number of smartphones in their waiting rooms either. When the ownership data is broken out by age brackets, smartphone ownership is strong across all demographics – even among those age 50 years and older.  

More commonly referred to as a “bring your own device” or BYOD strategy, smartphones are an opportunity for healthcare to leverage the access most patients already have at their fingertips and the data suggest that patients want to connect in this way. Most notably, 80% of consumers want to check in for a provider visit on their own secure mobile device. Further, 65% would download a mobile app to pay all of their healthcare bills, according to the 2017 Consumer Healthcare Payments Survey.

It should be noted that there are some providers who have already started to offer a “mobile” check-in solution to consumers. However, the current solutions available are not truly mobile as they require providers to purchase new tablets for the check-in, which can be expensive and time consuming to implement. There’s also the risk of the provider-owned devices transferring germs, bacteria, and viruses between consumers that use the device. After living through the worst flu season in a decade, is passing provider-owned devices from consumer to consumer a risk that provider organizations want to take?

Providers can look to how the airline and hotel industries now allow travelers to complete the entire check-in process via a mobile app on their smartphone, which can be accomplished in just minutes, if not days in advance. If providers adopted similar technology, patients could conveniently and easily check in for visits before ever stepping foot into the office.

 
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