What is Patient Access?
Patient access means different things to different people in the healthcare industry. For patients and their families, patient access refers to their ability to take charge of their health care. For executives, policymakers and physicians in the health industry, patient access services translates as the efficacy of the health care system because it involves doctors, nurses, staff, facilities, the IT department, the scheduling department and coordination amongst various providers to enhance the care experience. This blog discusses why patient access services and management is vital for hospitals and health providers to improve their revenue cycle.
Patient access affects both hospitals and practices
Patient access services is an integral part of hospitals as well as physician offices. It touches every patient and every aspect of their healthcare. The topic is gaining importance as high-deductible plans increase and more and more patients pay for their own health care. These patients expect a higher standard of service — in person or virtually — 24/7, 365 days a year. A primary care consumer choice survey found that among the ten clinic attributes that patients value, six are related to patient access services and convenience. All this, in turn, raises obligations of patient payments.
Healthcare organizations need to optimize their revenue cycle management and collect payments at the point of service. Recouping payments later can be complicated and difficult. Organizations will be successful if they can improve patient access services management, increase their revenue collections and reduce debt while simultaneously keeping their patients satisfied.
Streamlining Patient Payment Solutions to facilitate improvements
Meaningful advances in patient access management services necessitate that organizations adopt best practices across all patient access departments. These include:
- Centralized scheduling best practices
- Improvement in hospital registration process
- Improvement in IT systems to enhance patient access workflow, staffing, and facility design
- Coordination between staff and systems
If an organization has a centralized call center that does not offer 24/7 access or does not respond conveniently for patients, then patient access service suffers, and patients are dissatisfied. Depending on their resources, healthcare providers have to adopt centralized scheduling and weigh between integrated versus stand-alone centralized call centers to ensure optimal patient access across their entire network and revenue cycle. Your strategy ideally should encompass patient scheduling, hospital registration process improvement, insurance authorization, and financial counseling.
IT systems to enhance patient access workflow
Ensuring a smooth transition across these diverse functions requires dedicated IT system. A good IT system can avoid revenue leakage and enable billing. It can capture patient’s healthcare data and insurance data during the hospital registration process. The data can then be shared across all physician offices within the healthcare network, preventing duplication in the patient registration process with the various specialists that the patient may have to attend.
Timely, automated patient reminders can also be sent out before each patient’s visit, reminding them of their appointment and payment obligations. The system can also analyze a patient’s previous payment history, contracts, and insurance to improve the likelihood of payment. Systems can be set up for online pre-registration, point of service card readers, manual payments, patient financing, online bill payment, patient self-service portals, check deposit services, cash payments, as well as charity write-off services.
Coordination between staff and systems
Patient access services will suffer if your organization does not employ the right combination of specialists or a sufficient number of medical providers to ensure patient care. Patient registration, insurance verification, pre-authorization, patient check-in, scheduling, and billing, are complex functions. When staff multi-task, billing errors are possible, which can adversely influence cash collection.
Having dedicated billing staff and centralized scheduling can go a long way to increase patient satisfaction. Hospital registration process improvement is often the key to optimizing patient access services since this is the first point of interaction between the patient and the provider. A short and efficient patient registration process can help ensure patient satisfaction.
Access focused technologies
To summarize, patient access is not only the start but also the core of the healthcare management revenue cycle. It begins with centralized scheduling, hospital registration, and faster and more-efficient payments; leads to reduced debts; and ends with patient satisfaction. To start, first optimize your patient access services by improving IT systems and patient access workflow. The coordination between various stakeholders is critical and may be challenging — but it will end up bringing you enhanced revenue and improved patient outcomes.