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Registration kiosks `intuitive' for patients
The Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon was an early adopter of registration kiosks, says Jane Gray, CPA, FACHE, FHFMA, assistant vice president for the revenue cycle. When they were first implemented in 2007, she says, other hospitals were skeptical they could work.
"Now, their boards are approving this concept," Gray says.
The kiosks first were placed in the hospital's Heart Services area, then the diagnostic center, says Gray. "Over time, we deployed it in other locations. We put kiosks in the family practice environment, and most recently, in both the main surgery and ambulatory surgery centers," she says.
The kiosks are not completely self-service, because staff members are available to assist patients with navigating the system, says Gray. "We were still able to realize significant cost savings, since staff members can manage multiple kiosks at one time," she says. "However, our platform was the same one we went live with four years ago and was somewhat outdated."
Patients occasionally complained that the system was difficult to use and wasn't intuitive enough, Gray explains. For example, it included a "yes or no" checkbox that didn't allow users to click inside the "yes" box, and it didn't have a "back" button on every screen, she says.
"When you are first starting out with kiosks, you might not think about little things that can make a difference to a patient," says Gray.
An updated version recently was rolled out, and it makes the process much simpler for users, says Gray.
"People can perform the registration more independently," she says. "Feedback so far has been just wonderful." Patients complete a brief survey after the registration is complete so that any problem can be addressed right away, Gray says.
Registration kiosks will be added to other areas of the hospital this year, including the urgent care center and ED, says Gray. "Our methodology was really to address the high-volume peaks-and-valley locations where we could really get some staff savings," she says.
The next step might be enabling patients to register themselves using smart phones, Gray says.
"As advanced as health care is in terms of medical technology, we're fairly slow to react to things that have been around in other industries for a long time," she says. "I want to see a registration app [application]. That is where life and technology are going."
Simplicity for the patient is the key, Gray says. "In the future, instead of capturing the information on the kiosk, maybe patients will check in on their iPhone as they pull into the parking deck," she says. (See story on financial assistance, below.)
For more information on registration kiosks, contact:
Jane Gray, CPA, FACHE, FHFMA, Assistant Vice President, Revenue Cycle, Medical Center of Central Georgia, Macon. Phone: (478) 633-2097. Fax: (478) 633-4071. E-mail: Gray.Jane@mccg.org.com.
Those sharing coverage may qualify for help
Have staff offer financial assistance
Occasionally, individuals pose as others to "share" insurance coverage with family members or friends, reports Jane Gray, CPA, FACHE, FHFMA, assistant vice president for the revenue cycle at the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon.
"People also try to share eligibility under our financial assistance program, in order to avoid paying for healthcare," Gray says.
Some of these individuals might be surprised to learn they are eligible for financial assistance. Gray notes that a patient making $100,000 a year could have a million dollar medical bill and quality for financial assistance. "At some point, almost everybody needs assistance," she says. "I don't know if that idea has permeated society yet, but assistance is out there for more people than you would think."
Staff members now look for verbal cues that might indicate a patient's inability to pay and refer these patients to the hospital's financial assistance program, says Gray. "In the course of a conversation with a patient, they might say something that would prompt you to ask them if they would like to speak with someone about qualifying for assistance," she says.
The assistance program assesses uninsured individuals to see if they qualify for Medicaid or other programs, says Gray. "Some people know the system and work it to death. Other people don't even realize that they could qualify and are thrilled to death to get assistance," she says.
When patients utilize one of the hospital's registration kiosks, says Gray, they are asked for their date of birth and last four digits of their Social Security number. "So you get some element of protection there," says Gray. "As the patient enters payment information, there is some degree of identity validation in making sure names match and so forth."
Other signs of fraud are when patients have their insurance card but always forget a photo identification.