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Care Card Technology Improves Health System's Patient Flow and Waiting Time

Sarah Kearns, for HealthLeaders Media, July 6, 2009

At Heritage Valley Health System in Beaver, PA, patient flow was a major concern, as it has been for many facilities nationwide.

The facility was well aware of the long process patients had to go through to be seen by a physician. In 2006, it implemented electronic kiosks along with a Care Card to help the registration process move more efficiently and maintain constant patient flow.

"Modeled in part on successful implementations in both the airline and hospitality industries, the board and senior management of Heritage Valley developed a strategic plan for enabling and promoting greater consumer participation in the healthcare process through various self-service initiatives," says Robert Swaskoski, director of enterprise resource systems at HVHS.

The Care Card, a plastic ID card that comes in two sizes, one to put in your wallet and the other to snap on a keychain, uses a bar code with a unique identifying number that assists in patient identification at the initial point of registration. The card also functions as a portal that patients use to access their personal care records for HVHS.

Upon scanning the Care Card at a kiosk, the patient is reminded of any tests or exams scheduled for the day. Also, the patient can give any required information at the kiosk.

Goals for the system
HVHS designed the system to address a major patient complaint: the often mind-numbingly long wait times.

"The primary goal of the kiosk was to improve the patient experience by streamlining the administrative processes so that redundant tasks were eliminated and wait times were reduced, thus improving the total time required to provide healthcare services," says Swaskoski.

Prior to the implementation of the Care Card and kiosks, the average patient wait time was 37 minutes. The time was measured from the point patients entered the door to when their lab results were completed.

"The patients had to wait to see a registrar, complete the registration interview process, then wait again to receive their service," says Swaskoski.

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