A doctor shows a patient a healthcare form on a tablet and the blog title appears: Lower Hospital Costs with the Benefits of Electronic Healthcare Forms

Lower Hospital Costs with the Benefits of Electronic Healthcare Forms

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Lower Hospital Costs with the Benefits of Electronic Healthcare Forms

Posted on Wednesday, May 23, 2018


A doctor shows a patient a healthcare form on a tablet and the blog title appears: Lower Hospital Costs with the Benefits of Electronic Healthcare Forms

The benefits of electronic healthcare forms include reducing paper usage and improving workflow automation; both can significantly lower hospital costs.


There are numerous benefits of electronic healthcare forms that can help lower hospital costs related to the production and inefficiencies of paper forms.  Two of these, reducing paper usage and improving workflow automation, are outlined below:

Lower Hospital Costs with the Benefits of Reducing Paper Usage

Electronic healthcare forms greatly reduce the number of pages that need to be printed, which means providers can lower hospital costs related to all aspects of printing:

  • Besides the cost of the paper itself, facilities can save money on toner, ink, and printer maintenance and service fees.  A hospital may not even need as many printers, thanks to the benefits of electronic healthcare forms.
  • Electronic healthcare forms can easily be printed on-demand if a physical copy is necessary, so there is no need to stockpile pre-printed forms that may go unused.
  • Storage space and costs are no longer necessary since pre-printing is avoided.
  • Changes and updates to forms can be made electronically and in real-time, saving providers from the cost and waste of destroying old pre-printed versions that can no longer be used due to new revisions. (Read here how BJC Healthcare, which uses over 3,000 forms, utilized ActiveFORMS to solve this problem.)
  • The cost of blue cards and labels is also eliminated thanks to barcode automation.
  • Electronic healthcare forms enable healthcare facilities to use electronic signature instead of paper consent forms, significantly reducing paper usage.  Patients will also be impressed by, and enjoy the convenience of, an electronic signature option.

Lower Hospital Costs with the Benefits of Workflow Automation

Electronic healthcare forms allow providers to replace time-consuming and costly manual processes with workflow automation:

  • One of the benefits of electronic healthcare forms is that hospitals can automate the selection, generation, and routing of forms.  This ensures the correct, visit-specific documentation is produced every time (saving on costs associated with rework and denials due to missing paperwork/consents) and relieves the registrar from the burden of remembering selection criteria for every form used (saving on training costs and time spent searching for and gathering documents).
  • Standard patient demographic data and barcode identifiers on electronic healthcare forms prevent forms from being confused between different charts and save staff time from needing to label or handwrite the same patient data on every form.
  • Electronic healthcare forms that are barcoded, clean originals streamline the scan/capture process used by electronic document management systems (EDMS).  Separating multi-part forms or dealing with fourth generation copies that are barely legible can become issues of the past.
  • Improving workflow automation increases productivity and saves employees time, creating opportunities to reduce or repurpose FTEs(Read here how Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital grew its surgery department by 20% without an increase in FTEs, thanks to workflow automation and ActiveFORMS.)

The benefits of electronic healthcare forms are many; reducing paper usage and improving workflow automation will not only help providers to lower hospital costs, but also help hospitals to reduce or repurpose FTEs, increase efficiency, increase employee satisfaction and retention, reduce hospital waste, appeal to the healthcare consumer’s attraction to corporate social responsibility, improve accuracy and patient safety, and increase patient satisfaction.


By Stephanie Salmich

Managing the flu season: Sick patients sit in the waiting room.

Managing the Flu Season and High Patient Volume

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Managing the Flu Season and High Patient Volume

Posted on Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Managing the flu season has been especially difficult for hospitals this year as health systems around the country are overflowing with record numbers of flu patients, resulting in ambulance diversions and delays, bed shortages, and ERs that are operating beyond capacity.

For example, Saint Agnes Medical Center’s ER in California has been operating at 104% capacity and UCLA Medical Center’s ER, which usually treats around 140 patients/day, recently treated over 200 patients in one day.  In January Illinois had 100 more flu outbreaks than it did last year at the same time.

Here are some suggestions for managing the flu season:


Prevention

The best thing you can do in your work toward managing the flu season is to take preventive measures to reduce the number of patients the flu will bring in in the first place.  Be diligent in your efforts to educate patients about, and encourage them to receive, the flu vaccine.  Many may not realize that it’s not too late to get the flu shot for this flu season.  Provide them with the CDC’s tips for prevention and dispel any of the common flu myths they may believe.

The ModernMedicine Network outlines the importance of considering how you might compete with drug stores and retail clinics to secure your patients’ business for flu shots.  They suggest providing for walk-in vaccinations, setting up after-hours or weekend vaccination clinics, and partnering with nearby businesses to arrange flu shot clinics for their employees (which has the potential to generate new patients), among other ideas.


Preparation

Prepare for managing high patient volume, which you’re likely to see during the flu season.  Adjust your staffing needs and keep in mind that your employees may get sick, too.  A patient tracking system will help you to better allocate staff and resources and will vastly improve efficiency and patient throughput.

Other workflow automation tools will also aid you in managing high patient volume by increasing efficiency and perhaps compensating for an uptick in sick/absent employees.


Containment

Research published in the American Journal of Infection Control found that 4 in 10 healthcare professionals work while experiencing flu-like symptoms, risking the safety of the most vulnerable patients such as the elderly and those with chronic diseases.  Sick employees with a fever and respiratory symptoms should be instructed not to return to work “until at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever (without the use of fever-reducing medicines such as acetaminophen),” according to the CDC.

Additionally, create a designated space in the waiting room for patients with flu symptoms where they can sit without spreading the flu to other patients.  And make sure plenty of hand sanitizer, tissues, and masks are available to help contain the virus.

Managing the flu season: Sick patients sit in the waiting room.

High patient volume makes containment in the waiting area especially important to managing the flu season.

Managing the flu season is a challenge, but prevention, preparation, and containment will help you to operate efficiently while managing high patient volume and keeping your patients safe.


By Stephanie Salmich

Employee Satisfaction: A healthcare employee smiles at her desk.

3 Healthcare Solutions for Improving Employee Satisfaction, Engagement, & Retention

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HealthWare Systems Blog

3 Healthcare Solutions for Improving Employee Satisfaction, Engagement, & Retention

Posted on Thursday, December 22, 2016

Hospitals are continuously looking for ways to increase patient satisfaction and loyalty to their facilities.  But recent research suggests that attending to employee satisfaction first will ultimately lead to greater patient satisfaction and retention as well, thanks to the theory that loyal employees will create loyal customers.

Consider the following healthcare solutions to help you increase employee satisfaction and, consequently, patient satisfaction with your staff, your facility, and the overall patient experience.

Automate Workflow to Save Staff Time and Improve Efficiency


Your administrative staff members have a lot of responsibility.  They are accountable for gathering all the necessary information and documentation that affects whether your hospital is paid or reimbursed for services delivered.  How many times has a staff member forgotten to obtain a patient signature on just one form that eventually led to a back-end denial or rework for staff later on?  If your staff currently rely on memory to determine every document that is needed for every situation for every type of patient, in order to meet every government regulation and payer-specific requirement, there is an easier way.

An electronic healthcare forms solution can eliminate the potential for human error by automating the forms selection process, ensuring the right documentation is completed every time and anywhere a patient presents.  Furthermore, patient demographic data can be pre-populated on electronic healthcare forms with forms automation, saving your staff time from having to handwrite this information on every form.  This solution can automatically produce bar code identifiers on forms as well, eliminating the need for blue cards or a manual labeling process.

Electronic healthcare forms and forms automation can relieve many burdens from your staff, allowing them to devote more attention to delivering friendly customer service and a stress-free patient experience.

Limit the Frustrations of Rework with Deficiency Management Tools


Employee Satisfaction: A healthcare employee smiles at her desk.

Implement healthcare technology solutions that will improve employee satisfaction.

There is nothing more irritating than finishing a job, only to have to redo it due to errors or missing information.  Healthcare solutions that enforce data and documentation standards during registration can improve patient encounter accuracy by assisting registrars in capturing correct and complete information from the beginning, for every patient registration.

Preventing errors during registration can save employees from the hassle of rework that must be completed to fix earlier mistakes.  You can further improve employee efficiency with a deficiency management tool that continuously monitors each patient encounter, during registration and beyond, and flags errors and routes them to staff for resolution before they can snowball into lengthy rework down the road.

When it comes to employee satisfaction, it’s important to provide your staff with the proper tools to help them do the best job possible and take pride in their work.

Engage Employees with Incentives and Recognize Achievements


But don’t stop at improving employee satisfaction; be sure to address employee engagement as well.  Engaged employees are not only happy with their jobs, but also aware of their own impact on the organization’s reputation and are motivated to positively contribute to it.

Engaged employees feel appreciated by their managers.  Recognizing employees for their achievements can go a long way in showing them they are a valued part of your team.  One way to measure registrars’ accomplishments is by monitoring their level of patient encounter accuracy relative to their peers.  Consider healthcare solutions that provide managers with performance report cards for all registrars, and start an incentive program that rewards those with the top scores.  Often the motivation behind incentives has more to do with being acknowledged for hard work and with the healthy sense of competition they create, than with the actual reward received.


When employees are engaged, their positive attitudes and strong work ethic can have a favorable influence on patient satisfaction.  But if employees are not engaged, they may begin to explore other options for employment.  And remember, patients also have options when it comes to where they obtain care.  Implementing healthcare solutions like the ones mentioned above can help you increase both employee satisfaction and patient satisfaction, improving your retention rates for both groups.


By Stephanie Salmich

Managing high patient volume is possible with the right healthcare technology solutions.

Managing High Patient Volume in the Month of December

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Managing High Patient Volume in the Month of December

Posted on Wednesday, December 07, 2016

“It’s the most wonderful – make that, busiest – time of the year!”

Much like the holiday season, the 4th Quarter (and especially the month of December) can be a stressful time for hospitals.  By this point, many patients have met their deductibles and may have money saved in their FSAs that must be used by the end of the year.  The desire to maximize their healthcare finances, combined with the extra days off from work and school, makes this the opportune time for patients to schedule elective procedures and check off other items on their medical to-do lists.  Plus, the flu season and changing weather typically lead to an influx of sick patients as well.

Although hospitals are aware of these realities, many still feel underprepared when December strikes.  And while an increase in patients might imply an increase in revenue, hospitals still must handle the logistics of managing high patient volume while respecting their capacity limits.  When a hospital is underprepared, an overflow of patients and the disorder that comes with it can be detrimental to the patient experience, lowering patient satisfaction and even posing a risk to patient safety.

Fortunately, you can prepare your facility for the hustle and bustle of 4th Quarter.  Here are some suggestions to help you better manage the excess number of patients your facility is sure to be experiencing right now:

Implement a Patient Tracking System

You can significantly improve patient throughput with a patient tracking system.  Implementing a solution like this can make a huge impact in lowering your patient wait times, improving hospital efficiency and allowing your staff to serve more patients.

Managing high patient volume is more feasible when you have a patient tracking system in place that monitors each patient’s status in real-time and enables management to oversee throughput across multiple areas from a central location.

HealthWare’s patient tracking system can also project the level of staffing a facility may need.  Knowing these metrics can help you prevent the burnout that many doctors feel when overbooked, meaning greater employee satisfaction and less stress-induced turnover.

Managing high patient volume is possible with the right healthcare technology solutions.

Managing high patient volume is possible with the right healthcare technology solutions.

Prevent Errors with Deficiency Management Tools

Sure, more patients might mean more revenue.  But if your registrars are rushing to register patients, failing to collect all required information or recording errors that ultimately lead to reimbursement denials, how much extra revenue are you really taking in?

You can automate this process with patient registration software that monitors each registration for accuracy and enforces specific data and documentation requirements according to government and payer-specific rules.  You can further control deficiencies with a deficiency management solution that flags and routes mistakes to staff for correction before they can snowball into greater issues, rework, or payment delays and denials down the road.

Automate Workflow

In addition to those mentioned above, there are many other healthcare solutions that can help you automate the registration process and assist you in improving hospital efficiency.  For instance, an electronic forms solution can automate the selection and generation of forms for every situation, wherever a patient presents.  Forms automation can pre-populate patient demographic data on every form, so that staff members don’t have to write this information by hand.  And a physician order management system can streamline the collection of documentation electronically, allowing you to immediately review orders for accuracy and easily route documents to their appropriate departments without worrying that lost or incomplete orders will hold up patient throughput.

Many hospitals’ attempts at managing high patient volume involve scheduling extra staff to help meet the demands of this busy time of year.  Yes, you may need to adjust your scheduling during December, but you can cut down on these costs by lessening internal workloads when you automate former manual processes; for example, you can read here how one hospital used the above healthcare solutions to avoid the need to increase FTEs even while growing its surgery department by 20 percent.


The December patient upsurge is an issue your facility can expect to face this time every year.  If you haven’t yet implemented healthcare solutions for managing high patient volume, now is the time to make those changes.  Don’t wait to react until your busy season hits again next year.  Be proactive and get these systems in place as soon as possible so that they can benefit you the whole year through, and you will confidently enter the 4th Quarter in 2017 and every year thereafter.


By Stephanie Salmich