Self-Service in the ER

MediKioskIf you have had the unfortunate experience of an emergency room visit, you’d know that sometimes you have to wait in line for hours, just to check in. Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas is trying to change this. They are among the very first to install self-service kiosks in their emergency room. With the desired goal of streamlining the registration process and speeding up the delivery of care, they have installed 3 of these MediKiosksâ„¢ created by Galvanon.

The patient experience is simple and straight forward. The touch screen allows users to input general personal information such as name and birth date. Then patients are presented with a list of ailments to help identify their symptoms and describe the reason for their visit. If a patient can’t find what’s wrong within the provided list, they can touch the screen to a body diagram and specify a body part that hurts. Certain critical problems, combined with other information such as the person’s age, are flagged for the nurses. This way, nurses are notified of people who necessitate being seen right away.

Although the hospital staff is apparently working out some kinks (a handful of patients have found the system hard to use), they are seeing progress already. The kiosks are great for privacy (no one else can overhear patients describe their symptoms); they’re great for Spanish speakers (patients can choose English or Spanish and not have to worry if the person checking them in can understand them or not); and most significantly, patients in need are being seen quicker. I imagine that this technology has already helped save lives. The need to stand and wait in long lines has already been eliminated and already uncomfortable patients are able to take a seat.

Other industries have long embraced the self-service trend. I first fell in love with the technology at the atm and subway station. I am thrilled to skip the line when buying movie tickets, checking in for a flight and renting a car. I was amused giving self-service a try buying groceries (would they know if I scanned this stick of butter or not?). Self-service kiosks really do make things easier. And when done right, the user experience can be the best part. These are great examples of technologies creating true efficiencies in our every day life, and it’s refreshing to see healthcare leveraging this trend.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, Americans made 114 million visits to emergency rooms in 2003. This represents a 26 percent increase over the 90 million visits made a decade before. As ER visits continue to increase, let’s hope the patient experience continues to be enhanced as more hospitals install these self-service solutions.