A new study has concluded that interactive patient information kiosks can provide healthcare professionals with reliable and timely feedback on the quality of the healthcare their patients are experiencing.

The findings come from an evaluation of touch screen computers and kiosks carried out by NHS research specialists the Picker Institute and Intouch with Health. The survey examined the use of interactive kiosks as a means of capturing patients feedback about healthcare experience, together with providing information to patients.

The pilot survey, comparing touch screens with traditional paper means of gathering patients’ views, was carried out at the surgical and medical diabetes and orthopaedics clinics at Lothian University Hospital, Edinburgh.

Over a one week period the study looked at five different methods of capturing data from patients immediately after they had an appointment with a healthcare professional. The five methods examined were:

  • paper questionnaires completed at clinic
  • paper questionnaires taken for completion at home
  • paper questionnaires mailed to patients for home completion
  • touch screen questionnaires completed at clinic
  • online questionnaire completed at home.

One of the central findings of the study is that the technology is feasible and robust as a method for large scale data capture. However, to ensure maximum benefit volunteers or staff should act as ‘hosts’, showing the patient to the screen, encouraging them to use it and giving help if requested.

A further requirement identified is a need for a suitable physical ‘exit’ location for the screen that is secure, secluded and has online access.

Another main message was that despite widespread assumptions older patients are quite comfortable using the technology and, overall, all patients found the technology very easy to use. Patients were also generally happy to spend time after their appointment completing the questionnaire, although this may not remain the case if they were required to wait or queue in order to use the touch screen.

The study suggests that the ability to collect real time, instant feedback has "wide ranging implications for measuring patient feedback and managing healthcare services".

It concludes that interactive patient computer kiosks offer a useful supplement to regular paper surveys, providing the opportunity to track performance against benchmarks and targets on an ongoing basis. The technology was also said to provide a means to give instant feedback to staff on performance, based on very recent, real life cases and examples.

Tim Markham, Project Manager from the Picker Institute said: “With the right conditions in place this technology can provide rapid feedback on patient opinion which has exciting potential for healthcare providers. The immediacy of the feedback could be particularly useful when testing the introduction or the efficiency of a new system or service.