Patient Frustration: Why Did I Bother Checking In Online Then?


In recent years, healthcare providers increasingly want you to do an “online check in” prior to your appointment. I can see the benefits — when it works well.

I'd rather type information into my phone or computer instead of writing it into paper forms. These paper forms are often badly designed, with lines and boxes that often aren't big enough for the information that's needed.

And I figure that my data entry work saves somebody else the effort of taking a paper form and typing that into a computer.

I remember a time when my primary care physician's office had the online check in, which I took advantage of. I arrived to the office to be told, “The online check-in is not working, so we need you to fill out these forms.” Great. That meant extra effort on my part. Waste!

Here's what happened the other day with a visit to a specialist's office.

I had done the online check-in and noted that I had a new primary care physician, dutifully entering their information.

When I checked in at the front desk, I was asked by the person working behind the counter, “Is Dr. B____ still your MD?”

Me: No, I put that in during online check-in.

Front-Desk Employee: Who is your new MD?

Me: I put that in during online checkin. But I had to tell her this now verbally.

Front-Desk Employee: Where is [the new doctor] located?

Me: I put that it during online checkiin.

After I look up that info on my phone, I tell her, and she types it into her computer.

Front-Desk Employee: OK, I'll have to put in a ticket to get that changed.

Wait, what? What and where was she typing this information? And she's not able to directly update my record and information any more than I was able to do so online?

I know this is just one story, but really seems to exemplify the lack of process design, the lack of customer experience design, and the poorly designed information systems that we have in American healthcare.

What are your experiences along these lines, as a provider or as a patient?

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. So far this year I’ve made five doctor visits. None of my on-line check-ins have worked.

    In one case I changed my telephone number. The receptionist still had the wrong number. So how did they send the text?

  2. I have a follow up appointment today.

    As I did the online check in, I noticed they had updated my primary care physician information, but they spelled her name wrong.

    If they could have just used the data entry I had done already, it would have been less costly for them — and more accurate!!!


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