Case Study: Hospital generates $400K in savings, reduces registration staff by 30% with patient self-service technologies
Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket implemented a system that is “making it faster for patients to register and check in for appointments, including out-patient tests, clinic visits and surgical procedures”.
Located in a designated high-growth area (York Region and South Simcoe – North of Toronto), Southlake is a 365 bed hospital that has seen a quadrupling in size over the past 10 years and handled approximately 600,000 visits in 2009. They implemented a new system last summer, and according to hospital staff “the system, which includes at-home pre-registration, as well as self-serve electronic kiosks and Welcome Centres on-site, is speeding up wait times by as much as 75 per-cent and saving the hospital as much as $400,000 annually”.
Southlake knew that it needed to embrace technology and a process redesign to keep pace with this explosive growth. Led by Judy Dewsbury, Manager, Patient Access, a project was undertaken to centralize scheduling and registration. Partnered with PatientWay, Southlake rolled out their new program over a 6 month trial period that began in their Cataract Clinic. The program proved to be such a success that it has now been implemented throughout the hospital. Southlake proudly touts their system with the slogan of “Welcome, we have been expecting you…” at key points in the hospital.
Southlake’s Chief Operating Officer at the time of implementation, Peter Finkle, explained that check-in times on day of procedure had improved to “three minutes from eight minutes” on average and he believed “the new technology would provide Southlake with an effective and creative solution to raise the bar in patient service, while increasing the efficiency of the hospital at the same time”.
The immediate benefits of the new technology included “improving the accuracy of patient registration data, expediting patient processing, and improving patient satisfaction as well as hospital productivity”.
Southlake CEO Dr. Louis Balogh tries PatientWay Kiosk – image credit: BradfordTimes.ca
Here’s how the process works:
Using a two-step registration process a patient will pre-register either on-line by phone or fax at least 48 hours prior to their arrival. Upon arrival at the hospital on appointment day the patient can decide to swipe their health card at a user-friendly touch–screen “Express Check-in” kiosk or to visit a Welcome Centre for personal service. Regardless of which method the patient chooses, the hospital is notified of their arrival and ready for their appointment.
After a full year of using the new patient self-service system, the project generated several positive outcomes:
1. 30% reduction in registration staff (redistributed 10 FTEs from the area of patient registrations to other functions within the hospital)
2. 50% reduction in registration data errors
3. 60% reduction in time to see a registration clerk
4. 72% uptake by patients
5. $400K annual operational savings
Because Southlake is aware that not all patients are technologically savvy, they established three on-site Welcome Centre’s to provide more traditional personal service. Peter Finkle added that the Welcome Centres “are meant to transform the patient registration process upon arrival at the hospital from an administrative to a patient-centred approach of ‘welcome, we are expecting you”.
More and more hospitals and physician practices are adopting new technologies, including check-in kiosks and patient web portals. In fact, 89% of physicians polled in the 2011 HealthLeaders Industry Survey say they have or will have electronic health records in place within two years, which will surely drive the adoption of complementary applications that will streamline several processes including the patient registration and check-in experience.