There is a great post on e-Patients.net that compares Self-Service HealthCare to the self-Checkout lanes in Supermarkets. Thanks to @pjmachado for bringing this to my attention.
Having used the self-checkout lanes and the handheld scanners I fully concur with the conclusions in the article. Using the self-checkout when you have a line behind you is stressful and adds no value. Indeed in some ways it flips the process in undesirable ways. While you are scanning items through the checkout there may be a store employee bagging your items. They may not be packing them the way you want. You don’t get to see what is being bagged. You lose control. All you are doing is the job that that employee should be much better at doing.
However, our local grocery store has the handheld scanners. They make shopping easy. You get to see the running total as you shop, avoiding surprises at the end. You really do save time at the checkout. All you do is close out your order, wait for the printout and head out the door. You can even bag your groceries the way you want – as you shop. Yet, handheld scanners aren’t scratching the surface of what is possible. I am waiting for grocery stores to connect with services like shopwell or fooducate. It would be great to be able to scan and be advised on how well, or badly, what you have selected matches your dietary needs, suggesting alternatives that might be more suitable. This could be invaluable for shoppers with critical allergies or other health conditions.
We really need these services to merge in some way. As consumers we don’t want to have to do double entry scanning. I also think that enabling a third party service to connect with the scanning and checkout service would gain more trusting acceptance from consumers. If the service is provided by the store there will always be the lingering suspicion about whether alternatives are just being suggested because they make more profit for the store.