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Your practice can save administrative time and resources by creating self check-in stations for patients.
Using an iPad, tablet, or computer, you can install an app that interfaces with your EHR system to directly send the check-in information to your patients’ records. This saves time and office resources for other tasks, so it may be worth the initial investment depending on the needs of your practice.
If you already operate a connected practice with EHR and computer systems, this just adds mobile devices. Find out how to create your own self check-in for patients.
Self check-in features
Typically, check-in stations consist of an iPad or other computer system. Patients can walk up to the device or receive it from a receptionist, then use the touchscreen or keyboard to enter their information. This type of system can be made to prompt the same information from patients that you would traditionally have them complete on a clipboard form.
The receptionist or staff member does not have to record the information from the device manually, saving time and staff resources. From there, data is directly imported into the patients’ records by the app. Information is sent securely via wireless Internet access or through a data plan for the device.¹
It is possible to secure the transfer of information to protect patient data, and this should be done if you decide to use mobile devices to create self check-in stations.
There are some security issues you need to consider that will determine much of how you set up your check-in stations. Mobile devices such as tablets are small and portable, so they are easily stolen and should be kept where staff regularly see them and observe their use. If possible, it is best to secure these devices with anti-theft devices and keep them securely locked out of sight when your clinic is closed.
Mobile devices are not only expensive and desirable to steal, but they may also be a means of accessing patient information that should be protected and kept private. The HIPAA Security Rule requires that you make reasonable attempts to protect patient information, which includes putting physical safeguards into place to keep away unauthorized users.¹ ²
Protecting patient information also requires that you limit access to authorized personnel by using encryption, password protection, and other security measures inside the software. Some apps do nothing except record and send information, so they cannot directly access EHR data and download patient information. If your mobile device does have direct access to your EHR system and can pull up records on the device itself, you should consider using a different device for a check-in station. This adds another step of security to your EHR system.¹ ²
Creating a simple station
You can use these tablet-based systems the same way you would use forms on a clipboard. Start by asking your vendor if they have a companion check-in app that is compatible with your EHR. This allows you to minimize technical problems and improve data security.
Your staff can hand these tablets to patients to complete paperwork during the check-in process. Alternatively, you could have a computer set up for this. Make sure patients can complete their paperwork with some privacy, as much as possible. HIPAA regulations still apply to mobile devices and you should do whatever you can to carefully follow the law.¹ ²
After setting up your station, you are ready to start saving administrative time by making the check-in process more efficient.
¹Horowitz, B. “Apple iPad Application Eases Patient Registration in Doctors’ Offices.” eWeek. http://mobile.eweek.com/c/a/Health-Care-IT/Apple-iPad-Application-Eases-Patient-Registration-in-Doctors-Offices-215902. Published: May 2011. Accessed: December 2016.
²Barrett, C. “Healthcare Providers May Violate HIPAA by Using Mobile Devices to Communicate with Patients.” APA Health eSource. http://www.americanbar.org/newsletter/publications/aba_health_esource_home/aba_health_law_esource_1110_barrett.html. Published: October 2011. Accessed: December 2016.