Patient access departments are moving from self-registration kiosks to a broader focus on self-service technology, with patients pre-registering, paying balances, and completing forms on mobile devices. Some considerations:

  • Kiosks still require employees to verify patients’ identities and place armbands.
  • Lack of integration is a significant obstacle.
  • Pre-registration conducted via patient portals sometimes requires re-entering data.

Self-registration kiosks have been in place for three years at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, FL, but their time is short-lived. The department is moving to a new phase of “self-service.”

“We’ll be decommissioning the kiosks soon in favor of a more hands-on, ‘fast track’ registration process while we develop our next generation of self-service technology,” Patient Access Director Lynne Hildreth says.

Patient access employees, not the kiosks, were verifying patients’ identities and placing armbands.

“As a result, we weren’t creating a quicker registration process for patients, nor were we reducing our labor expense,” Hildreth says.

The kiosks filled a considerable amount of space in the department and created a bottleneck instead of improving registration.

“The kiosk technology was quick to become dated and obsolete,” Hildreth says. “We are planning to adjust our strategy and implement a self-service registration opportunity.”

Instead of using the kiosk after arrival, patients will register at home or on a mobile device. “We have seen several vendors who are enabling this process by producing a ‘boarding pass,’ which the patient would present upon arrival,” Hildreth says.

The patient would then obtain an armband and be taken quickly to their appointment.

“We’re particularly excited about coupling this into the appointment reminder process,” Hildreth says.

Patient access plans to give patients the ability to complete questionnaires and forms in advance and to receive tailored pre-visit information.

“We feel very confident that this will be well-received by our patients, who have high engagement with our patient portal today,” Hildreth says.

More than 75% of new patients complete a questionnaire online before their first visit. “Established patients visit the portal more than twice a month on average,” Hildreth says.

What’s the Holdup?

Patient access is undergoing a shift to self-service that goes beyond just pre-registration. “The new ‘patient experience’ in a digital world should be looked at more holistically, in all forms, from scheduling through dismissal,” says John Woerly, RHIA, CHAM, FHAM, principal director of Accenture Health Practice in Indianapolis.

Patients hope the registration process will rival the customer service provided by other industries. “Despite revolutionary technologies in the retail marketplace — airlines, hotels, banking — healthcare is, for the most part, at the beginning stages of development,” Woerly says.

Few patient access departments offer online pre-registration, Woerly notes. Those that do often have small numbers of patients participating. “It still requires printing the patient’s data from the online entry, then re-entering the data into the system,” Woerly explains.

Patient access has to move into the digital world to earn patients’ loyalty. “To do so, they will have to venture far beyond the traditional realms of clinical care, customer service, and hospitality,” Woerly says.

Successful patient access departments will view patients who register as customers.

“Up until now, hospitals have been focused on efficiency,” Woerly says. “To be effective, hospitals need to give memorable service experiences.”

Mobile Tech Is Driver

Ryan Stutzman, product manager for patient self-scheduling at Medfusion, a Cary, NC-based healthcare IT company, says, “In the near future, we will see patients taking a much more active role in all aspects of their healthcare. Mobile technology will be a key driver.”

Five years from now, he predicts, registrars will know when a patient has arrived and collect payments — all from the patient’s mobile device. “This will happen without ever calling a name, collecting a form, or swiping a credit card,” Stutzman says.

Ironically, one of the main obstacles to “self-service” in patient access is the sheer number of technology solutions available.

“Many front-desk administrators see each new popular tech tool as just another system to manage, screen to log on to, or thing that can break,” Stutzman explains.

Solutions don’t “talk” to one another. “Once the problem of interoperability is solved, we will see mobile technology transform healthcare, in the same way it has almost every other industry,” Stutzman says.


  • John Woerly, RHIA, CHAM, FHAM, Principal Director, Accenture Health Practice, Indianapolis. Email: John.woerly@accenture.com.