Hospital check-in kiosks spark care standard fears
Airport-style self check-in machines are being installed in city hospitals in a move which has sparked fears the system could harm patient care.
The kiosks – similar to those used in airport departure areas – are being installed at the Western General Hospital and Edinburgh Royal Infirmary as part of a pilot project and will allow patients to bypass receptionists and check in for their appointments themselves.
NHS Lothian said it hoped the system would free up time for reception staff, allowing them to support patients who need more time and attention.
But patients’ groups and politicians have raised concerns that patients will struggle to use the machines and warned it could lead to staff cutbacks.
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: “There is a world of difference between self-checking in for a much anticipated holiday flight and arriving at a hospital, often in a state of some anxiety.
“Any pilot scheme must take note of the fact that elderly patients in particular will find talking to a dispassionate screen a very poor substitute to talking to an experienced health receptionist.”
Margaret Watt, chairwoman of the Scotland Patients’ Association, said the kiosks’ introduction was “concerning”.
“We’re short of staff as it is at the moment, everything is about cutbacks and saving as much money as possible,” she said.
“I think we are going far too fast for the patients. Not everyone is able to use machines like these.”
Labour’s health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said NHS Lothian seemed to be going to “extraordinary lengths” to replace staff with machines.
She said: “People look for a human face in the NHS. This is a disappointing development and needs to be monitored very carefully.”
To register their attendance for an appointment, patients must swipe their finger over the touchscreen and input their details into the machine.
If the three-month pilot is successful, the devices, which cost around £3000, could be rolled out to other areas across NHS Lothian.
Martin Egan, director of e-Health, said: “These kiosks will help NHS Lothian provide a more streamlined, efficient service for patients.
“It will help save them time and in some cases even provide more privacy because details will not have to be discussed at the desk.
“This is a pilot project about increasing patient choice and freeing up reception staff to support patients who need more time and attention.”
The kiosks will sit beside reception desks in two clinics in the outpatients department of the Western General Hospital and two ultrasound clinics in Radiology at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
They will link directly into NHS Lothian’s patient management system and perform tasks such as appointment check-in and change of address or other details.
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Monday 20 May 2013
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