Touchscreens and the NHS

Touchscreen devices have been around for over two decades now but it’s been the last two years or so that have seen a step change in the use of touchscreen elements as a key part of the human-machine interface. The introduction of the touchscreen phones/tablets and adoption by supermarkets of touchscreen self-checkouts has seen touchscreen devices becoming the norm. Touchscreens are a great way for customers and service users to interact with applications and this article shows some of the applications where the NHS are using touchscreens.

Touchscreen devices come in a number of different types depending on their end-use. Portable devices such as PDA and Mobile Clinical Assistants use small screens, typically between 4 and 12 inches in size with resolutions of around 320×240, 640×480 and up to 1024×768. Larger touchscreen displays are implemented in the form of interactive digital signs and touchscreen kiosks which typically use screens of 19, 22 and 32-inch screens for the kiosks. Interactive digital signs may use larger screens of around 22, 32 or even 42in displays. There are a number of different types of touchscreen technologies and each has its own benefits. For larger displays, the touchscreen technology is either very expensive or just unworkable and therefore larger displays typically use infrared touchscreens. Smaller devices may use resistive or projective capacitive touchscreens. Resistive touchscreens will work with finger touches as well as a stylus and even gloved hands unlike capacitive which will require physical contact between the user and the touchscreen.

Patient Satisfaction Surveys:

As part of a continuous process of improvements, it is vital that the NHS gain feedback from service users and staff. Patient satisfaction surveys can be implemented by using portable touchscreens such as the Mobile Clinical Assistants and equally well by fixed machines such as the interactive digital signs and wall or free-standing touchscreen kiosks. The touchscreen surveys are a highly efficient and cost-effective method for collecting patient feedback. Lately, kiosks are increasingly being used to implement Friends and Families test surveys.


Touchscreen kiosks can help free up the time that nurses have to spend with patients. Many NHS hospitals use a paper-based triage system to help nurses provide the correct path as part of the patients care. The e-triage kiosks are fitted near to reception and are used by patients as they arrive. A simple series of questions (available in multiple languages) will help the medical staff to prioritise patients. Patients can also be provided with advice as part of the triage process.

Patient Check-in:

Again, in order to free staff to concentrate on more complex issues many hospitals and doctors surgeries are now moving towards touchscreen based patient self check-in systems. These touchscreens are fitted in reception areas and ask just a few questions in order to identify the user. Information such as year of birth, sex, and postcode are usually all that is required to identify the patient and notify the reception of their arrival. When not in use, the patient check-in kiosks and touchscreens can be used as a digital sign displaying healthcare information and advice.

Wellbeing Kiosks:

These touchscreen kiosks are primarily for providing patients easy and intuitive access to support services available via the internet. The kiosks are setup with a database of services which can be used by patients in support of their illness. The wellbeing information point kiosks can also have an internet telephone which enables service users to make free phone calls to supporting organisations.

Wayfinding in NHS Hospitals:

Hospitals are large and complex buildings when you first arrive. The main reception area is typically filled with posters, notices and direction boards and for some users, this can present them with information overload. Wayfinding kiosks are free-standing or wall mounted touchscreen kiosks which enable a patient to find the department or room that they need to go to. They can then see a 2D or 3D map which shows them the best route to navigate to their destination. The wayfinding kiosks can also show locations of car parks, bus stops and other public transport links. Wayfinding kiosks can print out a small map to help guide the patient to their appointment.


Touchscreen devices such as Kiosks and interactive digital signs are a way forward for the NHS to help improve service interaction with patients and free-up busy professionals to help improve service levels. Next time you visit an NHS building see how many touchscreens you notice.