By Emily Bregel
In one Signal Mountain doctor's waiting room, clipboards and tedious paperwork are becoming a thing of the past.
Podiatrist Robert Spalding of Area Podiatry Center recently installed a kiosk that allows customers to check in by themselves.
The diminutive machine sitting on a table in the reception room automatically verifies patients' insurance, determines copay and can even be used to upload medical records.
"This is going to be the wave of the future," Dr. Spalding said.
The kiosk is the first of its kind in Tennessee, Dr. Spalding said. The service saves patients from having to fill out tedious forms and allows receptionists to bypass transcribing all that information into computers and placing daily calls to insurance companies.
With just three other employees in his office and 25 to 30 patients a day, Dr. Spalding said the time saved with the kiosk is a huge benefit.
"If you don't become more efficient, smaller (doctor's) offices have the possibility of being overburdened by paperwork," he said. "This just gives you a better tool to work with."
When patients enter the waiting room, instead of heading to the receptionist, they enter their name and insurance ID number into the kiosk. Within seconds, the kiosk pulls up all pertinent patient information, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act privacy form for e-signing. Everything is automatically uploaded into the local office's system.
"It's going to save me a lot of time," said Area Podiatry Center assistant and receptionist Yvonne Browne. "This way I don't have to sit and make sure they're filling out all the paperwork correctly."
Some insurance providers also have come out with insurance cards with a stripe on the back, like an ATM card, that patients can simply swipe at the kiosk to call up their information, Dr. Spalding said.
In addition to getting patients in and out more quickly, the kiosk automatically checks insurance eligibility, alerting the receptionist instantly if there is a conflict.
"Normally you miss this stuff (until) you go to file a claim and the claim gets rejected," Dr. Spalding said. "The transaction goes much smoother."
The kiosk service, designed by Marietta, Ga.-based Clearwave Corp., costs $200 a month, plus a one-time installation fee of $1,500.
The machine costs $3,000, Dr. Spalding said.
The Clearwave system is compatible with any medical practice software and check-in information is archived in the computer, so doctors easily can reference any patient, he said.
Clearwave has been working to simplify health care administration for close to three years and the kiosks have been on the market since June, said CEO Gerard White.
The company has 32 kiosks in doctors' offices in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, in addition to the one in Signal Mountain.
"We always had a vision to provide a self-service type technology for health care that's used in other industries, such as the ATMs with banks, the self-checks-in at airports, self-check-outs at grocery stores and gas stations," Mr. White said. "We're basically taking that technology and bringing it to health care."
E-mail Emily Bregel at firstname.lastname@example.org