PatientWay Blog

IKEA self-service flop: a lesson for healthcare (part 2)

Written by Jay Lawrence on February 18th, 2013. Posted in Healthcare strategy, Healthcare Technology, Hospital kiosk, Hospital management, Patient registrations, Patient satisfaction, Patient Self-Service

Heavy boxes IKEA self service flop: a lesson for healthcare (part 2)

“Heavy lifting required? Maybe self-service checkout isn’t a good option”

In a recent blog, I shared how healthcare folks can learn from IKEA’s failed efforts with self-service technology.

Granted, IKEA’s applications for this technology differ greatly from that of healthcare facilities. At IKEA, customers used it to make purchases; while hospitals and medical clinics typically use it for things like patient pre-registration, registration or check-in, wayfinding, and completing surveys.

Still, IKEA offers us much food for thought (and I’m not just talking about its delicious Swedish meatballs).

Here are two more takeaways:

Lesson #3: Self-service may work better in some environments than others

It’s one thing to use a grocery store check-out to buy a box of cereal and a carton of milk.

But at IKEA, customers often have big, bulky furniture that requires a wide, awkward cart to maneuver. Flipping boxes over to find the barcode can require some major muscle. And even then, it can be tough to scan the barcode with a pricing gun.

Put simply, self-service technology doesn’t make sense for all service providers—sometimes, not even those working in the same industry.

Where healthcare is concerned, a simple Google search will show you there have been many success stories—in hospitals as well as medical clinics, large as well as small, and across a number of countries. The challenge is in figuring how best to use it to meet patients’ needs, as well as your own.

Lesson #4: Self-service should demonstrate its value to users

“When self-checkout is done well, customers love it….However, when it is clunky and confusing, the customer is left to think, ‘I have to work this hard to give you my money?’”—Sheridan Orr, Interrobang Agency

When first introducing self-service technology, many organizations tout it as a value-add to users. Whether that’s true or not, however, is ultimately left to the discretion of the users.

Given the many frustrations IKEA’s self-service check-out lanes created for users, the retailer gave consumers the impression that the customer experience was not as important as saving money and reducing headcount.

There has to be some realized benefit—tangible or intangible—to the person using the self-serve technology.

In an industry like healthcare that is known for delays and backlogs, being able to save patients’ time is one visible and measurable way to demonstrate value.

The user experience

Ultimately, it’s the users who will decide whether or not the technology is a success. All you need to do is look at IKEA’s experience as proof.

Yet, despite the failure of self-service at IKEA, the retailer did something right by yanking its kiosks from its US stores: it showed that it had listened to its customers. This says a lot about the company.

In healthcare, the patient experience is critical to what we do. While any technology may have its hiccups, it’s our responsibility to ensure it helps—not hinder—the people we service.

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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