The True Cost of Patient Registration Errors

The true cost of patient registration is hard to analyze because most providers and hospitals have convinced themselves they need to handle patient registration, instead of the patient handling it themselves. Therefore, the cost for patient registration can’t be improved and constantly increases based on new industry standards, such as meaningful use questions and ever-increasing staff costs. The result of this attitude and approach is that patient registration often takes more time than necessary. If the patient is unable to control his or her data during the registration process, lengthy wait times and increased dissatisfaction occur—costing providers both time and money.

Patients, on average, spend about 20 minutes in waiting rooms of healthcare organizations. When these organizations don’t focus on streamlining the patient check-in process, patient throughput suffers. Staffing expenses increase because staff must take time to clarify patient data or fill in missing pieces at the point of service. In addition, the potential for denied claims is higher due to a lack of data verification, raising overall collection costs.Impatiently-Waiting

Today, just 5 to 10 percent of healthcare organizations offer self-service solutions for patient registration and check-in. This is a missed opportunity to improve patient satisfaction, reduce costs and increase revenue. There are three benefits of self-service check-in technologies healthcare leaders should consider.

Speed. At Montgomery Cancer Center in Montgomery, Alabama, an electronic patient check-in solution decreased patient check-in time to just 41 seconds. Putting the registration process in the hands of patients not only provides them with the ability to manage their experience, but also limits check-in time simply by eliminating a visit to the front desk. This increases patient throughput and ensures that the time staff does spend with patients is of higher value.

Consider the airport registration process. When passengers fly, the last place they want to go to is a desk staffed by an airline employee. Instead, the first stop is to a kiosk or a mobile application with built-in technology that recognizes individuals with the touch of a few buttons, thanks to information they have been able to input in advance.

The experience in most hospitals and physician practices is often the opposite. Patient check-in is heavily dependent on staff—and breakdowns in processes occur when staff call in sick. They also occur when staff follow the same steps for each patient rather than customizing the registration process to the patient’s situation and needs. This increases the potential for error, which can lead to lost revenue.

Some hospitals and physician practices have tried to automate the registration process with the use of tablets rather than self-service platforms that verify data in real-time. However, this approach has critical flaws. For example, to receive a tablet, patients must go to the front desk, just as with traditional, manual processes, and any front-desk encounter adds time to the visit and costs hospitals and physician practices money. Every patient visit to the front-desk is an incremental cost for the hospital or physician.

Patient experience. Why is it that patients spend more time in the front office than with their physician or a nurse? It’s because front-office processes are broken. When patients spend more time than necessary dealing with a provider’s front-office processes and staff, satisfaction plummets—and there is a cost to lost patient loyalty.

One of the biggest misconceptions in healthcare is that front-office staff in physician practices and hospitals provide a personal touch to the patient encounter. But think about what this encounter typically looks like: “We have a few questions we need you to answer. Here is your paperwork [or tablet]. Please return this with your insurance card and driver’s license …” Is this really the personal touch we’re seeking to provide in healthcare?

Meanwhile, patients complain about the amount of paperwork they must complete before being seen by a physician. The personal touch they want is time spent with their physician. Anything that impedes their ability to see their physician impacts their experience.

Ideally, patients should spend two minutes or less on registration activities when they arrive for their appointment. While the amount of time spent at check in will vary by specialty, look for a self-service check-in solution that can ensure a two-minutes-or-less process.

Improved communication. So often in healthcare, it appears no one has time to truly talk with patients. Front-desk staff don’t always have the experience or time to have a meaningful conversation with patients. Nurses and technicians are under too much pressure to move patients through processes quickly. When the patient does see a physician, the backlog of patients—stemming in part from inefficient check-in processes—limits time for a meaningful encounter beyond the reason for the visit at hand.

Yet studies consistently show that the quality of patient communication has a direct impact on patient satisfaction. Effective communication is critical to the patient experience, which is now measured and tied to value-based payments. It’s also vital to understanding the patient’s total health needs and managing the patient’s health beyond a single episode of care.

A self-service check-in process opens the door to more meaningful communication with patients not just by freeing up staff time, but also by improving throughput. For example, nurses and physicians are better able to share information about additional services the patient may wish to consider. Staff can then augment these conversations by providing patients with brochures that offer greater detail about these services. Staff time also can be spent on patient follow up, making sure discharge instructions are clear and future appointments are scheduled.

Additionally, a self-service check-in solution offers real-time authentication of data and the opportunity to survey patients. Communicating financial information to patients can’t be done through the current paper process; however, when a patient uses a digital check-in solution, their data can be immediately authenticated, which allows for immediate communication of copays and remaining deductibles. Patients can also relate their experience with a staff member or physician in a post-office visit survey to actively share their suggestions for practice improvement. Not only do patients feel listened to, but their suggestions also help providers increase satisfaction and value.

Reengineering the patient registration experience is critical to eliminating front-office errors and delays that cost healthcare organizations money. It’s also essential to creating a more positive experience for patients as well as staff—a key step toward improving value.

 

gerard-white-clearwaveSRS Health guest blogger: Gerard White, President & CEO of Clearwave

With 20 years of technology leadership experience, Mr. White is responsible for successfully implementing the Clearwave Corporation vision and strategy. Mr. White co-founded the company in 2004 to carry out a vision of technology that spans the healthcare continuum through the creation of a healthcare network and a single patient identifier that allows accurate patient data to be shared regardless of what provider a patient visits.

Mr. White has extensive experience working with some of the most respected companies in the world including EDS, Security Mutual, Saturn, Lennox Industries, Continental Airlines, GTE, Alltel, Hitachi, Grant Thornton and Blue Cross Blue Shield. Both his knowledge and leadership experience provide a solid groundwork for Clearwave Corporation’s active role in revolutionizing the healthcare industry.

Prior to joining Clearwave, Mr. White was the CEO of 1stOrder, focusing on IT consulting services and wireless application development. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management and a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Information Systems.

Mark Your 2017 Calendars!

To help you keep track of your year, we’ve created this 2017 quick reference calendar that you can refer to for conference dates and important holidays. Looking forward to another exciting year!

Be sure to check our website for upcoming industry hot topic SRS Webinars.

2017-calendar-infographic-FINAL-v2

Securing Your Business: Disaster recovery – do you need backup or a business continuity plan?

bouncer-blogAs an MSP specializing in healthcare and security, StratX IT Solutions is often asked,

“Is there a difference between backup and business continuity plans for disaster recovery?”

Many believe that data backup and business continuity plans are one in the same but they are not! One allows you to recover your files, and the other enables you to continue operating your practice regardless of the severity of the outage or your physical location. They are complimentary solutions and you need both in order to secure the business of your practice.

With estimates that 70% of data outages are caused by human error (eg, opening emails with viruses*) and the Gartner Group study which predicts that 25% of PCs will fail each year, asking “IF” you need a disaster recovery plan for your systems has become moot. What is critical is “HOW”.

But let’s backup for a minute (bad pun intended). Let us explain what data backup and business continuity plans are, and what StratX recommends to our clients as the most failsafe combination.

It all starts with data backup. It is the foundation for disaster recovery and business continuity – no backup means no business continuity.

But, not all backup solutions are created equal.  Remember when tape backup was the only option? Data protection is a fast-evolving market, and solutions that were put in place a decade or so ago are no longer suited to meet today’s regulatory and requirements.

What is required is a robust, viable foundation for ensuring secure, HIPAA compliant data backup and retention. Backup products fall into three (3) basic categories:

  1. Onsite backup (data stored on hardware kept physically in your office)
  2. Cloud backup (data stored on hosted hardware via the internet)
  3. Hybrid onsite-cloud backup (combines the first two categories)

Onsite backup works well when a quick restore of lost or damaged files is required. The data is onsite and, it’s fast and easy to restore to its original location. But what happens if:

  • The power goes out?
  • If the device fails?
  • Or if the equipment is stolen or fails?

You might think the cloud looks more attractive due to onsite backup’s “what ifs,” but cloud-only backup is risky too.

  • What if you lose connectivity to the internet?
  • Restores tend to be difficult and time-consuming.
  • And, after all, the cloud can fail, too.

What is a hybrid onsite-cloud solution?

  • Your data is first copied and stored on a local device and your data is also replicated in the cloud.

StratX recommends that our clients purchase and use a hybrid onsite-cloud backup solution. By using onsite backup to mitigate the risks of the cloud, and using the cloud to mitigate the risks of onsite backup your data will be available to you in case of an emergency and allow you to put your business continuity plan into action.

Furthermore, we recommend our clients use a hybrid onsite-cloud solution which gives them the ability to work virtually. The backup contains full server images (vs. only files or data) which can be restored or activated as servers in a disaster and allow you to work as if the original servers were still functioning – this is where a business continuity plan comes into play.

Business continuity, the ability to keep daily operations running, isn’t a product that you purchase per se, it’s the action plan that is designed and managed by your IT staff or vendor.

The plan lays out how you will access your server, software, applications and data when disaster strikes and also sets a timeline to achieve that access. It should also have provisions to have your IT support continually test the process before you are faced with an issue. It’s better to troubleshoot failed “test” restorations than to lose days, weeks or even months reinstalling and configuring your systems.

The only safe way to head-off downtime of your systems, regardless of the cause, is to be informed and prepared. Do you have a clearly outlined plan in place for your practice?

It’s critical that you are prepared, ask your IT staff:

  • How quickly can my business be up and running in the event of disaster?
  • Do we have documented backup, security and a business continuity plan in place which meet our regulatory requirements?
  • Is all of our critical data backed up daily, or more frequently?
  • How fast can we get our systems up and running to a pre-disaster operating state?
  • Have we done a real world test our backup and business continuity plan?

 

Jack Mortell

SRSsoft guest blogger: Jack Mortell of StratX IT Solutions

* Print our “email safety guide” for your staff. It describes the key signs they should look for to identify and avoid opening malicious emails.

Buzzword of the Day: Value-based Payment

ekg-moneyThe buzzword of the day is “Value-Based Payment”, and everyone is talking about the transition from volume to value. Recently, Becker’s—the leading source of cutting-edge business and legal information for healthcare industry leaders—interviewed SRS’ Lynn Scheps and Lester Parada as part of an article exploring this very important subject. The article discusses what “value-based” means, how the recently proposed regulations supporting the implementation of the MACRA legislation will impact orthopaedists, and how EHRs must evolve to facilitate practice success in the future. Read Value-based payments are coming for orthopedics: Are you ready?