News | June 06, 2007

Kiosks Speed Check-in: Parkland Computer Kiosks Eliminate Lines

June 7, 2007 — Instead of standing in line, sometimes for hours, just to explain their symptoms at one of the nation's busiest emergency rooms, Parkland patients now type their woes into a computer at one of three automated check-in kiosks.

While similar machines are popping up nationally to check in patients at medical clinics, Parkland officials said they believe they are among the first to have a system in a hospital emergency room. A donation through UT Southwestern Medical School paid for the $50,000 project.

Parkland personnel stand by to give directions and type in information for people who need help, and the hospital continues to adjust to make the system more user-friendly.

Nurses constantly monitor the condition of people waiting, and pulled from the line people who were in obvious need of immediate help as some potentially life-threatening problems, like chest pain or stroke symptoms, aren't always easy to see, and some patients are too shy to complain.

At the kiosks, patients type in their name, birth date and gender before being led to myriad ailments from which they choose their chief complaint.

Certain ailments, combined with information like the person's age, are immediately flagged. Monitors in the nurses' station keep a tally of who is waiting, and blinking dots cue them to people who should be seen right away, like an older person with chest pains, for example.

"It just gives me another set of eyes," said nurse Brandon Gardner. "In theory, it's great with an ER as busy as we are."

Parkland is already using the new data to analyze how long people have to wait for care. A patient's record previously didn't start until he or she made it through the first line. Now, that record starts almost immediately.

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