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The Genie Is Out Of The Bottle – Embrace The Power Of Self-Service

November 26, 2012
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I just celebrated my 50th birthday.  As a present, my health system arranged for me to have a colonoscopy, and also gave me a free coffee shop gift card.  On occasion, I’ll stop by my local shop with my middle school-aged daughter to get her a hot chocolate and a fresh-brewed grande coffee for me.  I kind of miss the good old days when I would have talked to the barista, ordered on my way to the cashier, and swiped my credit card after the total was calculated.


he big chains work a little bit differently today.  Mine detects who I am from some kind of a signal via an app from my cell phone and its proximity.  They know what I’m most likely to order based on my history with them, the time of day and day of week.  My phone’s display shows me what I’m going to get if I hit the confirm button.  Of course, there’s an option to open the full menu on the screen as well, but I never do that.  

Lately, I’ve noticed that they can somehow detect when I’m with my daughter, and add the hot chocolate to my order, as what they term “a likely option (specifically for me).”  There’s no credit card swipe anymore.  When I hit confirm, that’s all they need to authorize my transaction.

But something seemed to be a little awry during my last visit.  The first item was a decaf coffee.  That was followed by the hot chocolate, which I expected.  Next to the decaf coffee there was a new button I’ve never seen before.  It read “Why?”  When I touched the button, a pop-up appeared to remind me that based on an interaction with my healthcare provider, I had complained of palpitations, and agreed to try stopping caffeine for a while to see if this helped.  I had completely forgotten, but I had signed a pact with my provider that included authorizing these types of reminders.  

Nothing unusual happened during the rest of my morning.  I stopped at the grocery store and used self-service checkout, receiving personalized discounts and other reminders. Then I went to the gas station, swiped my card, and got a lower price (forty cents per gallon) for my loyalty program with the grocery chain.  Next, I headed to the airport, used the self-check in, and received a personalized seat and boarding assignment.

So, imagine you’re a provider organization with dozens of offices, clinics, and a few hospitals.  When will you be ready to plug into this kind of consumer network?  When will you be prepared to offer your patients, aka consumers or customers, this kind of a pact when they present at your facility? 

The technology is readily available to healthcare providers of all sizes.  Much of it is modular so you can implement it incrementally.  You can build patient loyalty through reducing wait times by using the convenience of self-service registration, check in, and empowering patients to schedule their own appointments.  There are many other benefits, too.  For instance, you can significantly reduce denials, automate co-payments, lower your administrative costs, and more to come.

It’s high time for healthcare providers to get with this cost-effective 21st Century technology.  The genie is out of the bottle; this level of service has become the norm for literally every touchpoint from smartphones and the Web, to point-of-service.  Are you ready?

Joseph I. Bormel, MD, MPH

CMO and Vice President

QuadraMed Corporation


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