'Tricks of the trade' should be shared

Show registrars approved shortcuts

Registrars at Carolinas HealthCare System in Charlotte, NC, benefit from "tricks of the trade" shared by specialists within the department, reports Christina Baugh, supervisor of PRN registrars and patient financial service specialists for corporate patient access.

These "tricks" are shared via one-on-one training, group sessions, an internal web site, and the department newsletter. Registrars might learn the best possible order to obtain a patient's information for optimal efficiency, or they might learn how to use their "credit reference," a form with all of the patient's information that is printed out to verify, to their advantage.  

"They can put anything they need on the credit reference that will help them remember what they need to ask, such as copay amounts, the patient's mother's maiden name, or the patient's e-mail address," Baugh explains.

Registrars also learn about approved shortcuts, such as using the "equal" symbol to populate a certain field, or using the zip code to populate the city, state, county, or country fields. "This increases speed without sacrificing quality," says Baugh.

Use common situations

Patient access specialists often use role playing to get registrars more comfortable with multiple situations involving patients.

"They do this in a non-threatening and safe environment, stemming from their own arsenal of experiences," says Baugh.

Here is how role-playing is utilized:

• Trainees shadow the specialists and other experienced registrars during patient interviews so they can see varied techniques.

"We then review what they feel would work for them, based on what they saw," says Baugh. "This allows the trainee to critique us and to ask questions based on their observations."

• The specialists shadow trainees during patient interactions, so they can fine-tune their approach.

"This has been really helpful in getting the trainees comfortable during the interview and letting them know they have a safety net," Baugh says.

• The specialists use role playing during classroom or staff meeting training to let the registrars see others' styles. 

"This gives the trainee and seasoned registrars a chance to laugh at themselves," says Baugh. "They share 'tricks' of their own that may help someone else take it to the next level."

• Staff members use scripts based on role playing as a reference.

"The scripts are a form of role playing that is there when no else is around," says Baugh. "It is an excellent reference that walks the registrar through various scenarios. It allows them to have an answer to a question they may not have thought of."

For example, registrars use scripts on asking for copays in the emergency department, stating, "Your ED copay is $100. You can use debit, credit, check, cash, or a flexible spending account. What would you like to use tonight?" or "How would you like to take care of your ED copay?"

"Saying 'Can you?' or 'Will you?' can decrease your odds of getting payment from the patient," says Baugh.