Improving Your Patient Registration Process (and Beyond) for 2016

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Improving Your Patient Registration Process (and Beyond) for 2016

Posted on Tue, Dec 22, 2015

Why is your patient registration process so important? Because it sets the tone for the entire patient encounter at your facility. As one customer service expert and Forbes contributor writes, “It is very hard to recover the goodwill of a patient whose first impression is ” vis-à-vis an unwelcoming front desk, a long trek from the parking lot, or confusing signage.

Opportunities for improvement are huge and, oftentimes, surprisingly easy to implement.

We recently sat down with Wendy Roach, Patient Access Director at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Illinois, to discuss patient registration processes and beyond. Roach is an active member of the patient access management community; she sits on the board for AIPAM, and serves on NAHAM’s Publications and Communication Committee. Full disclosure: Roach uses ActiveTRACK—just one of the revenue cycle solutions employed by various hospitals in the Advocate Health System—to ensure exceptional encounters, from door to discharge.

Here’s what she had to say about patient registration, patient tracking, and much more (including her experience with us!).

Don’t Settle for Someone Else’s Process

Patient encounters shouldn’t look and feel the same in every type of healthcare facility. So patient tracking tools that force hospitals or health systems into a singularly prescribed process are bound to frustrate… if not fail.

“Many of the patient populations we deal with are very tech savvy,” explained Roach. “When I wanted to add a specific self-check-in feature to our kiosks, HealthWare Systems said ‘okay, let’s work on it.’ As opposed to other vendors I’ve worked with in the past—partners who are either unwilling or unable to go down another path— HealthWare is always willing to listen and come up with solutions.”

Prioritize Personalization

Not all patient tracking tools have features to help staff members easily identify patients. But those that do can elevate the patient registration process and the overall customer experience. ActiveTRACK, for example, populates registrars’ screens with a photo of any in-system patient, so registrars naturally recognize and greet the person approaching their desk.

“This has been extremely helpful when our waiting room is full,” Roach noted. “ActiveTRACK helps from a customer service perspective and adds personalization to the registration experience. I think that’s one of the things hospitals need to be better at, especially in nonclinical areas.”

Pull, Don’t Push

Patient handoffs need to happen seamlessly. “As a registration department, you want to pull the patient through your system, not push them,” emphasized Roach. “Once we hit ‘registration complete,’ ActiveTRACK automatically sends a page to the appropriate department, and someone comes to get them.”

Actively Manage and Manage Proactively

When it comes to patient registration processes, the right reporting tools can be used in two ways: to access real-time data in order to address overcrowded waiting areas in the moment; and to review retrospective data—metrics that inform your staff training or predictive staffing decisions.

“We actually use reporting tools for productivity measures for our staff,” confirmed Roach. “I just ran an ActiveTRACK report on our staff for the entire month. We’ll use that information for productivity training—working with associates to help them meet set averages.”

During the holiday season in particular, staffing can be very difficult to plan and predict. Viewing the prior year as a benchmark for your holiday schedule, TRACK users can staff appropriately, while factoring in religious observance requests, school vacations, winter weather emergencies, etc.

Create Audit Trails

A big part of building a strong, motivated registration team is being able to back up your team members when things go wrong. Roach feels like she has the tools to do this now. “An ancillary department may say didn’t put a certain patient in the system. But with ActiveTRACK, we can see who touched a record. We can see the patient was, in fact, entered. We can investigate any irregularities or issues… In that way, ActiveTRACK has saved us quite a few times.”

Likewise, TRACK is helping Roach distinguish between wait times owed to registrar performance or registration management issues, versus patient handoff or clinical department delays. “The patient attributes any wait before seeing a technologist as being a registrar issue.” Visible display screens with status notations now help to correct that misperception—for patients and for hospital leaders.

Facilitate Internal and External Patient Transport

For most patients, your hospital is a big, unfamiliar place. Navigating its halls can be difficult, due to physical challenges or directional ones. If you’re not working to facilitate patient transport, you’re probably dealing with crowded wait rooms, service delays, and unhappy consumers.

But you don’t need to outsource patient transport to a team of throughput consultants. Customizable patient tracking software makes it easy to develop your own centralized system for internal and external patient handoffs. Roach says her hospital is planning to implement valet/porter services via ActiveTRACK after its modernization project (currently underway). “It starts with the valet issuing a ticket to the patient. At the end , when the technologist submits ‘clinical complete,’ the system sends a page to the valet, saying Patient X is on his way. It’s exciting. We’re going to implement this with inpatients as well.”

Want to hear how other hospitals are improving their patient registration processes, or see details on patient tracking solutions? We’ve got you covered:

  • Play the ActiveTRACK video
  • Play the ActiveTRACK webinar; learn how one hospital cut patient wait times in half.
  • Get the ActiveTRACK eBook, illustrating the link between patient satisfaction and revenue.
  • Read the ActiveTRACK case study; which generated thousands in reallocated FTE savings.
  • Get the facts on ActiveTRACK, for advanced patient tracking, registration, and lobby management.

Health Records Management: 3 Ingredients for Efficiency and Success

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Health Records Management: 3 Ingredients for Efficiency and Success

Posted on Thu, Dec 10, 2015

Despite massive efforts and incentive programs, the nation’s health information infrastructure is still plagued by gaping holes. As a result, health records management and health information exchange are two enormous, open-ended questions.

As of 2014, 83 percent of physicians had adopted electronic health record systems, as had 75 percent of hospitals. Simultaneously, industry leaders have launched some very ambitious interoperability alliances and HIE programs, in order to promote secure, efficient data exchange—taking into account the many different vendor platforms and different levels of provider adoption (basic versus certified EHRs).

Meanwhile, the push behind effective health records management is getting stronger. Hospitals and health systems are, as ever, concerned about concrete, bottom-line implications: staff productivity and HIPAA compliance… But they’re also working toward some of the broader agendas that will underscore the future of healthcare: better care coordination, higher quality of care, and improved patient outcomes. Federal mandates pertaining to “transitions of care” (TOC) now mean hospitals and providers will have to get better at exchanging information along the care continuum. TOC summaries are among the mandates for Stage 2 of Meaningful Use.

And yet, in the midst of so many changes and forward-thinking initiatives, these health records realities remain:

  • EHR adoption among small and rural hospitals has hit a plateau.
  • Most physicians aren’t using all basic EHR functionalities.
  • Faxed healthcare documents aren’t going away.

So whether you’re already using electronic health records technology, or whether you’re among the 32 percent of hospitals without even a basic EHR, you can’t afford to wait for budget, buy-in, national adoption, and seamless data exchange standards.

Right now your facility is losing time, money, and compliance points because health record inputs and workflows are fragmented. What can you do about it? Look for a solution that has the capacity to work in tandem with EHRs of all types and inbound faxes to your server or physical fax machines. Specifically, look for a solution with these features:

A Central Repository

In addition to the burden of having to manually scan and save fax documents into EHRs, disparate efforts within your different departments lead to siloed repositories. Pieces of the same patient’s record may be stored on different networks with different naming conventions. Having one central image repository—one that can accept and process not only traditional fax, but electronic faxes as well—is essential for comprehensive health records management and data exchanges.

Within your central repository, each document (image) should be self-contained and encrypted. The tool should be audited for HIPAA compliance, so that every activity associated with a given document is recorded. Apart from ActiveXCHANGE, we don’t know of a health records management solution that offers this kind of auditing, encryption, and controls over user access.

Workflow and Indexing

When you’re managing documents from different inputs and partners—sometimes hundreds per day—another powerful feature you need on hand is a workflow driver with automatic indexing. Many facilities don’t have built-in, digital processes to go behind a faxed physician order, for example, because they don’t know it’s possible. With ActiveXCHANGE, it’s easy to build a custom workflow (approvals, reviews, rejection protocols) behind any type of document received. Each document is automatically indexed, as well, with consistent naming conventions for simple search and retrieval. It’s completely up to you and your end users as to how to configure each workflow’s look and feel, while executing in the most efficient manner.

A Release Engine to Third-Party Systems

ActiveXCHANGE supports release and import engines capable of sending and receiving images from other third-party applications or system processes. That means if your facility already has an EHR in place, you don’t need to print and scan electronic faxes in order to load them into your system. ActiveXCHANGE can be supplemented with a forms module, which enables the publishing and auto-printing of forms relating to release of information to HIEs. ActiveXCHANGE also supports the ability to receive orders directly from electronic ordering systems, regardless of the source.

Curious to see how ActiveXCHANGE could improve your approach to health records management? Request a 15-minute demo today.