As patients, we’ve all experienced crowded waiting rooms, battered clipboards with endless paperwork we’ve filled out before and surprise requests for copays or coinsurance payments before you even see your doctor. The whole thing can feel like an obstacle course—a series of challenges to overcome in order to access care.
I’ve experienced the challenges on the other side of the desk, working in outpatient radiology registration, where my workload was barely manageable at times and checking in patients was a strenuous process. I’ve had countless exasperated sighs directed at me when I presented that dreaded clipboard to patients. I gently insisted over and over that sorry, yes, the paperwork must be filled out again. I spent time interpreting patient handwriting to spot any changes that need to go into the EHR. I scanned all that paperwork in, then promptly shredded it.
Traditional registration is simply wasteful of everyone’s time and resources.
There were also the last-minute problems hiding in the patients’ responses that would completely disrupt my clinic’s schedule. When paperwork is completed in-house, just before the appointment, there’s no opportunity to solve these problems ahead of time.
In my time in radiology, I registered countless patients who couldn’t have their exam that day. Some had metal implants that were incompatible with the machine, or exceeded the table weight limit, or were allergic to the contrast we were about to administer or hadn’t prepped properly—requiring last-minute rescheduling.
This was always incredibly frustrating for the patient, who was likely missing time from work or had traveled a distance for the appointment. They were also going to experience a delay in their care as our office worked to reschedule the visit for another day. Staff time and resources were wasted as well, and the potential reimbursement for that appointment slot was lost forever.
Gathering all needed information ahead of the visit can help avoid many of these issues, but the traditional phone outreach method of preregistration has its limits. Often, staff calls to patients occur when the patient is also at work and unable to take the call. Making all these lengthy outbound phone calls to properly preregister and prescreen an entire day’s schedule is an enormous and time-consuming task. It’s a task that the staff may not be able to fit into their already busy day.
Luckily, this is an area where health IT can really help. Today, over 75% of us own a smartphone and over 50% own a tablet. By using mobile technology, we can make an enormous positive impact on the registration process. Most of the activities occurring at registration can be accomplished well ahead of the appointment. And they can be completed from somewhere more comfortable than a busy waiting area.
Payment collection, for instance, can be a real pain point for registrars. The front desk is often staffed by people who love helping others and have a sincere desire to brighten their patients’ day. Talking to patients about copays, coinsurances, or balances due is simply not pleasant for the front desk and often the conversation is just skipped. This leaves the billing office to try to recoup amounts owed after the date of service, delaying collections and increasing bad debt.
But what if we included this task in a mobile preregistration solution? By collecting copays or asking the patient to put their credit card on file as part of the preregistration process, we can speed up our revenue cycle. We also relieve our staff from an unpleasant duty.
Preregistration’s transformative effects don’t stop at the front desk. There’s a lot of pressure for all clinic staff to not only prioritize patient safety above all else, but also stay on schedule and not waste time and resources.
By collecting clinical and screening data for clinical staff ahead of time, last minute delays can be avoided. By giving staff ample time to review screening information without the worry of getting behind schedule, we go a long way towards making sure critical information isn’t missed. The clinic’s schedule can run more smoothly, resulting in a more positive experience for both patients and staff.
Giving patients the opportunity to complete their registration prior to their visit empowers them to have more control of their health journey. They have time to look up needed information, consult with friends or family for details, and learn more about their upcoming visit. They are engaged in the visit well ahead of their appointment and are more likely to attend, driving down no-show rates.
We all know that today’s patients are consumers. If they’re not happy with the experience at one facility, they can (and will) take their business elsewhere. By marrying preregistration processes with mobile technology, we can take that necessary evil and turn it into an opportunity to create delight, all while making our clinics run more smoothly.
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