PatientWay Blog

IKEA self-service flop: a lesson for healthcare (part 1)

Written by Jay Lawrence on February 4th, 2013. Posted in Healthcare Technology, Hospital kiosk, Hospital management, Patient satisfaction, Patient Self-Service, Uncategorized

Ikea IKEA self service flop: a lesson for healthcare (part 1)By Jay Laurence, CEO, PatientWay

For perhaps the first time ever, you’re going to get something from IKEA that doesn’t require assembly or an Allen key: a lesson.

In August 2012, IKEA announced plans to remove all self-service checkout systems from its US stores.

The reason? According to an IKEA spokesman, “It wasn’t as efficient as we had originally hoped.”

Despite IKEA being a retailer, its failed experience still teaches us a few things about using self-service technology in healthcare.

Lesson #1: Self-service should not be mandatory

IKEA cashier lanes were opened only on the busiest shopping days—so customers often had no choice but to use the self-service checkout lanes to make their purchases.

News flash to IKEA (or not): not everybody is comfortable with technology—including seniors, people with vision disabilities and/or low literacy levels, and those who speak minority languages.

In a high-stress environment like a hospital or medical clinic, providing an option for service—for example, having a staff member available to assist patients face-to-face if they prefer not to use a kiosk to check-in or register—can help ease anxiety and add to (rather than worsen) the patient experience.

Lesson #2: Self-service should offer instructions

IKEA customers often found kiosk directions unclear—and no demos were provided on operating the scanners (despite the kiosks being designed to offer tutorials).

If you expect your users to readily take control of their own transactions, you have to anticipate that they will have questions—obviously, when the technology is acting finicky, but also in the best of times.

If the technology allows it—and it should, if you are making such an investment—ensure your kiosk includes patient instructions and/or a “Help” feature or call button for face-to-face assistance. (And make sure the person doing the assisting is not only friendly, but well-read on troubleshooting!)

Perhaps Francie Mendelsohn of Summit Research Associates Inc. summed it up best when she said: “The secret to self-service — any kind of self-service, including candy vending machines — is don’t make me think.”

Checkout time

Stay tuned for my next blog article, when I offer two more lessons learned (courtesy of IKEA)—including how they apply to the use of self-service technology in healthcare

Jay Lawrence

Jay Lawrence is the CEO of PatientWay, a leading provider of patient self-service technology and process improvement services.  Jay's vision of bringing measurable cost and time efficiencies to health care organizations, while improving patient and staff satisfaction, is quickly being realized as leading providers such as Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Southlake Regional Health Centre and the Stronach Cancer Care Centre, are just a few of the many that have adopted PatientWay technology. Jay is a recipient of the Ottawa Business Journal's Forty under 40 Award in 2009, Industry Canada Innovation Leader also in 2009, and Chair of the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) Path to Recognition (PTR) National Steering Committee.

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