PITTSFIELD, Maine — When patients arrive at Sebasticook Valley Hospital, a new registration system will welcome them — one that melds the latest technology with convenience and efficiency and looks quite similar to an airport check-in kiosk.
“One of the biggest complaints we receive is the length of time it takes to register for services,” CEO Jack May said Wednesday. “Our patients’ time is important. This new system is quick and convenient and will completely eliminate lengthy registrations.” He said the hospital has been working on bringing the new technology, called HealthPass, to the hospital for more than a year.
Using their SVH patient cards, which are similar to a credit card, patients use a touch screen to register, verify all their personal and medical information, electronically sign for services and confirm their insurance data. The kiosks also have the ability to be bilingual and accept bill payments, but the hospital is currently not using those features.
“This is the first kiosk of its kind in a Maine hospital,” May said. Manufactured by KioHealth, the kiosks debuted at a Chicago hospital just more than a year ago.
Sebasticook Valley Hospital is a member of the Eastern Maine Healthcare system and “our entire system is watching what we are doing and will be learning from us,” May said.
The system in the hospital’s lobby has been in place for a week, Peggy Romano, director of information systems, said. “The first patient to use it was well into her 80s and she did well,” Romano said. A 12-year-old child also was able to register quickly using the new kiosk.
In the registration department, what Romano called the “back end,” personnel will instantly know that a patient has arrived, why they are there and how long they have been waiting for care.
After regular business hours, the kiosk will immediately link incoming emergency patients with the emergency department.
More than 20,000 people in central Maine already have the patient cards, which have been provided free of charge to all incoming patients since 2008, and the hospital is recommending that anyone without one should stop by the hospital.
Eventually, Romano said, all satellite doctors’ offices and clinics will have the kiosks, and patients will be able to use them at all SVH locations.
The patient and insurance cards are swiped, just as at an ATM, and patients use a touch screen to verify information. The whole process takes about a minute. The screen is antimicrobial — it protects from harmful bacteria, fungi and microbes — and is private — it cannot be seen unless one stands directly in front of it.
Hospital officials said the kiosk will not replace any personnel.
“It will make things much more efficient,” Romano said. “For example, if we have three ambulances arrive in the emergency department, staff can look at the kiosk information and immediately see there are six people in the lobby.”
Patients who need to speak to a hospital representative may still do so at the hospital’s front desk.
Romano said Sebasticook Valley Hospital is small, seeing about 15,000 patients in the emergency department yearly. “We run a lean operation,” she said. “We don’t anticipate this will replace any personnel.”
“This is about efficiency and convenience,” May said. “It allows us and the patient to know where he is in the health system.”
May would not reveal how much the kiosks cost, but said they were not prohibitive and the benefits far outweigh the expense. He expects the lobby kiosks will be used by at least 200 patients a day. “Our clinics are extremely busy,” he said.
According to the kiosk industry, kiosks can cost $400 to $1,000 a month to maintain.