MedCity Influencers, Physicians

The virtual care strategy checklist: Implementing a contactless check-in

Contactless check-in is not a new concept. Many consumer-focused industries, such as hospitality, have been utilizing this technology for years — including mobile check-in and checkout, keyless entry, and more — to enhance the guest experience.

Like so much of healthcare, the patient check-in process underwent a drastic transformation this past year. Gone are the days of “sick” waiting rooms, often-touched clipboards and a cup full of used pens at the front desk. In fact, current CDC guidelines state that practices should consider asking patients to remain outside the facility until they are called in for their appointment or set up triage booths to screen patients safely. While the CDC guidelines were intended to be a temporary support for patient and provider safety, healthcare consumerism and virtual care technology will continue to play a role in how we deliver healthcare beyond Covid-19.

Practices are increasingly looking to build a long-term virtual care strategy that supports patient visits both in and outside the office. Implementing a contactless check-in is an important step to achieving success.

Contactless Check-in is Essential to the Patient Experience
Patients are consumers. As such, they expect convenience from the businesses they frequent. Healthcare is no exception to this rule. While healthcare consumerism has been on the rise for years, Covid-19 drastically accelerated the adoption of technology to meet these needs. Practices are looking to technology to help increase workflow efficiencies while meeting patient needs in 2021. In fact, according to our recent survey, 75% of providers say it’s important/very important to have a virtual care strategy moving forward. However, only 28% have actually implemented one.

In order to meet consumer demands, provide an optimal patient experience and increase efficiencies and profitability, providers must implement solutions and processes that will enable them to offer a full virtual care experience. Contactless check-in is a key part of this experience and provides convenience to patients, improves safety by eliminating touchpoints and increases clinical workflow and efficiency by reducing redundant tasks – all while enabling doctors to spend more time with patients.

Over the last year, many practices began to make incremental changes to their waiting rooms and patient check-in process, including:

  • Call or text upon arrival
  • Limiting the number of people in the waiting room
  • Closing the waiting room indefinitely and placing patients directly in their rooms
  • Utilizing electronic forms in place of paper

These are all effective changes to promote safety and convenience for patients and staff. However, as we look ahead and practices continue to rethink waiting rooms and the check-in experience, now is the time to use technology to eliminate waiting rooms completely.

The Steps to Implementing a Contactless Check-in Workflow
Implementing contactless check-in can be a simple process leveraging technology that patients already have at their fingertips – their phones. More than 90% of Americans keep their mobile phones within arm’s reach and 90% of all text messages are read within three minutes of receipt. By leveraging three virtual patient management tools – text messaging, electronic forms and virtual waiting rooms – practices can implement a workflow that eliminates inefficiencies, unnecessary wait times and the heavy foot traffic in waiting rooms. Here’s how:

  • Secure patient text messaging allows staff to quickly update and communicate with patients – and vise versa – ultimately reducing admin hours that staff may spend playing phone tag
  • Electronic forms eliminate the need for traditional pens and paper, plus it decreases the risk of human error, enhances document availability and increases patient satisfaction with easily accessible online and mobile friendly, simple data entry options
  • The virtual waiting room allows patients to check-in via their smartphone, eliminating the need for patients to wait inside with other potentially sick patients

With solutions in place, the contactless check-in process can be broken down into four simple steps:

  1. Pre-Visit: Prior to the visit, the patient will receive a text message with a link to a check-in form
  2. Patient Arrival: Upon arrival to the practice, the patient remains inside their vehicle and clicks the link to complete the check-in form
  3. Check-In: The practice receives the completed check-in form and text patient to confirm receipt
  4. Rooming The Patient: When ready for the patient, the practice sends a text to notify the patient to enter

Patients have become accustomed to the convenience, safety and flexibility that virtual care technology offers. But beyond the safety and convenience of your patients and staff, by having a contactless check-in workflow in place, practices can support back office workload by capturing all the clinical information needed to bill and code for clinical screenings or assessments, increasing efficiency and creating a unique revenue opportunity for the practice.

Contactless check-in is not a new concept. Many consumer-focused industries, such as hospitality, have been utilizing this technology for years — including mobile check-in and checkout, keyless entry, and more — to enhance the guest experience. Implementing a comprehensive virtual care strategy, including contactless check-in, is necessary to not only improve the patient experience, but to also increase practice profitability and efficiency.

Photo: Roman Valiev, Getty Images

Michael Morgan is President of Updox. With a successful track record in helping organizations use technology to transform the way healthcare is delivered, Mike has more than 25 years of healthcare leadership within software, behavioral health and HIT organizations. Updox was named to the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies in America for the past six consecutive years.

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