Mastering Patient Access for Revenue Cycle Success

Best Practices & Smart Solutions for Today’s Patient Registration Process

Remember how patient registration seemed like the least involved part of a healthcare encounter before you got into this business? It’s amazing how perspectives can change. From the staff side of the front desk, you know just how critical the intricacies of the patient access process are for your organization’s cash flow and overall financial health.

When a patient accesses a health system through scheduling and on-site registration, the organization has its first opportunity to set the entire encounter on the right course. It’s imperative to immediately get all the correct contact information, as well as verify eligibility and benefits and collect co-pays in order to receive timely payment in full after services are rendered and the patient is discharged. Today as patients bear more and more of the payment responsibility, providers must take the reins to collect and manage the revenue cycle.

Here are strategies and tactics to have more success at the point of patient access.

- Begin the data capture process at scheduling. Consider the first phone call from a patient to schedule an appointment as a real chance to gather key information. Train the staff who field these calls to go through a list of prescribed questions and interactions that aid in capturing the following information:
- correct name, address and phone number
- email address and declaration of preferred billing communications method (email, mail or phone)
- details of insurance coverage and discussion of options if there is none
- invitation to pay co-pay over phone by credit card or agreement that co-payment will be received during registration
- introduction to any online payment options so that patient can be aware of options and create an account before arrival

- Verify coverage in advance of appointment. In capturing insurance details at the point of scheduling, you are able to verify eligibility and benefits information well in advance of a patient’s arrival. If this is done far enough ahead and troubles are identified, there will be time to address and correct these issues even before the arrival date.

- Transform front desk staff to patient financial services representatives. Hire and train the right people to manage registration as the patient financial service that it truly is. In the past, these up-front positions have not always received hospital leadership’s prioritization, but as we have come to quantify the importance of these roles, it’s essential to bring on staffers who have the attributes needed such as:
- compassion, excellent customer service and communication skills to interact with patients and colleagues
- experience or propensity for sales, as they must feel comfortable asking for payment
- nimble in use of technology and your specific systems
- detailed and observant to catch and capture missing information, etc. and
- knowledgeable of the full revenue cycle process so they understand the importance of their roles in it.

- Invest in technology to automate processes. Give those carefully selected, highly-trained staff members the right technology solutions to do their jobs well. Automation and seamless data integration go a long way in helping busy organizations stay atop every aspect of revenue cycle management, as manual input is just not an ideal option any more. Automated solutions can make a measurable difference in collecting information and up-front payments. Implement technology to automate processes that can assist staff with:
- eligibility and benefits verification
- address validation
- credit scoring (propensity to pay assessment)
- patient payment responsibility estimation
- payment acceptance and processing
- enrollment for charity care or government coverage
- system alerts to advise when information is incomplete or inaccurate.
Make certain the technology solutions at the front end are fully integrated into the entire revenue cycle management system, so that the good, accurate data captured up-front stays with the patient record throughout the course of care.

- Give the patient control whenever appropriate. Consider using technology that puts the capture of data in the hands of patients. Today, self-serve registration in the form of online scheduling and on-site registration kiosks is available to empower patients to access your system directly and at their own pace. In turn, workload is reduced for your staff. With the right technology integrated into the workflow, staff members will be alerted to any problems and able to address with patients in order to complete registration.

- Build payment collection into patient access. Every point of access is a legitimate opportunity to collect payment. Staff must be trained to always ask for co-payment and invite payment above the co-pay or in full, as well. Online and kiosk registration are excellent for collecting payments, as these tools can alert patients to co-payments required as well as any outstanding balances; patients simply input or swipe debit or credit card information on the spot to pay.

- Integrate patient-friendly elements into the process. In our increasingly consumer-driven healthcare model, it’s vital to remember patients are now paying customers. They need to feel welcome into the system and educated about what they must pay and why. Use of patient payment responsibility calculators are great for guiding patients through the process so that they understand their charges and will be more willing and likely to pay them.

- Mine data and gain business intelligence. In a patient access system integrated with automated solutions as described previously, valuable information is being collected not only patient by patient but system wide, as well. Use collective data on a regular basis to identify and track recurring issues, systemic trends and successes in terms of up-front collections, etc. Make the technology work like an extension of your team to provide actionable insights.

Ready to master patient access? Start with Emdeon Patient Access Master. This turnkey, we-thought-of-everything solution is the ultimate package for registration services. Used in tandem with industry best practices, you and your staff will hold the reins on revenue cycle management with every patient, every time.

Visit today to get started!

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