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A hospital in Illinois will soon offer public Internet access without compromising or overloading its telephone lines.
Provena Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet is placing two eKiosks, stand-alone Internet workstations, in its main lobby and outpatient admissions area. The eKiosks will feature wireless, high-speed broadband connectivity and will allow users to perform various computer tasks.
"We are excited about what this means to our patients and visitors," says Lisa Lagger, Provena spokeswoman. Businesspeople can use the eKiosks to connect to their offices; younger people can use it for research and homework. "It’s going to be a terrific asset to our patients and their families and visitors."
Provena signed a three-year agreement with eKiosk of New Lenox, IL, developer of the workstations. Health care is a new arena for eKiosk, which had previously focused on the hospitality and airline industries. "I envision this [venture] to be like the more sophisticated airport lounges that are consumer-focused," Lagger says.
These workstations are the pay phones of the 21st century, says John Bohrer, eKiosk’s vice president of its health care division. The eKiosks have both phone lines and a variety of ports, such as USB, RJ-11 modem, RJ-45 data, and infrared, which can connect laptops, notebooks, palmtops, and other hand-held devices to the Internet.
The company also recently acquired technology called MyID that provides users with the security of a virtual private network, Bohrer adds. MyID authenticates users through the use of an existing credit card and then allows them to connect to their desktop at a remote location.
eKiosk users can connect to the Internet for free at Provena for the first 10 minutes. After that, users pay a fee for additional minutes on-line, such as 10 minutes for $2.50. "Users can buy [additional] minutes like a prepaid telephone card," says Jack Querio, eKiosk’s senior vice president of sales.
The workstations also offer other services for nominal fees. These services include Microsoft Office applications, video e-mail, text e-mail, and text-to-any-fax number. Each unit has an audio headset jack and speaker, a video camera, a microphone, an IBM Microdrive reader, and a floppy disk drive. The workstations also have an attached telephone handset for users to call eKiosk’s customer service department at any time.
The workstations, however, do offer free, unlimited access to the information on Provena’s Web site. "One of the greatest things from our vantage point is having our own Web site displayed on the main screen when the eKiosk is not in use. This gives constant, high visibility to the medical center and its Web site," Lagger says.
Hospitals such as Provena determine what information will be available on the workstations, Querio says. Users, for example, can visit the hospital’s Web site at any time to find out information about employment and support groups or to receive patient information about topics such as how to care for a new baby, Bohrer says. Hospitals can also offer "way-finding" software on the workstations, which helps users find their way around health care facilities, Bohrer says. "The hospitals have to provide the software, but the units are set to accommodate it."
eKiosks is talking with health care facilities about placing insurance information on the site, too, Querio says. "Patients could use the site to see if the hospital accepts their insurance and what kind of benefits they have."
eKiosks offers the first 10 minutes of Internet use free because it finds various companies that want to advertise to the health care industry, Querio says. Diaper companies Huggies or Pampers, for example, might want to appeal to new parents.
Hospitals can pay for their own advertising on the computer screens, as some airlines have chosen to do on the workstations in their airport lounges, he says. eKiosk, however, provides free advertising for the hospitals on all screens. "Every time a screen pops up [on the unit], it will have information about the hospital," Querio says. The only cost to hospitals that offer the workstations on-site is that of a telephone line, he adds. "We install and maintain the unit at no cost."
Hospitals receive funds from advertising revenue and usage, too. "We give 15% of whatever revenue is generated from the usage [including ad revenue and actual usage fees] back to the hospital," Querio says. This includes the free 10 minutes, too. "Even the free 10-minute period generates revenue because it is sponsored. "This is an amenity for the patients themselves who are ambulatory and for their visitors," he says. "It’s also a way for the institutions to generate some incremental revenue that they might not generate normally."
Patients and visitors won’t be the only users of the eKiosks, Lagger says. "One of the neat things is that they will be available to our employees, as well." Provena is still awaiting the arrival of its two workstations, Lagger says. The hospital had its choice of different types of eKiosks. "They can match your furniture," she explains. "Some have chairs hooked to them. Some look like desks. Others have more of a podium style. [The company] offers a lot of options in terms of making them blend with your decor."
eKiosk custom-builds the product, Querio says. "They come in different shapes and sizes, and different finishes."
If the workstations prove to be popular, Provena plans to add more units, Lagger says. Other hospitals in the seven-hospital Provena Health system may follow suit, too. "In our health system, which is the largest Catholic health system in Illinois, we often take successes and try to replicate them at other hospitals. I would imagine that it would not be long before other Provena entities would also be embracing these kinds of units. I would imagine that is a trend that would catch on quickly."