Two recent patient access hires at Wilmington, DE-based Nemours Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children quickly advanced in the department, and both obtained certified healthcare access manager (CHAM) certification. At first glance, though, the applicants didn’t appear to have the desired skill set.
“They had very little knowledge about patient access and were lacking healthcare experience in general,” recalls Pamela Perakis, CRCR, CHAM, director of revenue cycle quality and development.
The applicants did have strong computer skills, however. Most of their background was related to face-to-face customer service experience in the demanding environments of retail and banking. “I have hired several people that I felt I was taking a chance on, because they didn’t have the skill set I normally look for in a candidate,” Perakis says.
Perakis is more likely to take a chance on candidates who lack a patient access background if they demonstrate honesty about the skills they’re lacking, compassion for others, willingness to learn, and a desire to join the organization. “In many cases, this type of hire has resulted in some of my highest performers who are most recognized by patients and peers,” says Perakis.
Perakis always asks applicants, “Can you tell me about a time that you made a mistake? How did you handle it?” The response gives a sense of an applicant’s honesty, willingness to take ownership for mistakes, and ability to resolve issues. “Access responsibilities have significantly increased over the years,” notes Perakis. “As more demands are placed on these employees, there is greater risk for error.”
Some applicants are quick to supply an example of an error and how they went about reporting it, resolving it, and learning from it. “They would be considered for the role over a person that makes a statement that they can’t think of a time or they don’t make mistakes,” says Perakis.
One applicant recounted a time that she scheduled a patient for the wrong type of testing. The test that should have been scheduled required an authorization from the insurance company. “It was brought to her attention an hour before her shift ended, and the appointment was for the next day,” says Perakis. The applicant called the patient and asked if he could come in later in the day, instead of in the morning when the original appointment was made.
This approach gave her time to contact the insurance company to obtain the authorization. She also explained the situation to the staff members at the primary care physician’s office, and they agreed to help her expedite the request. “Once everything was resolved, she went and told her supervisor about the mistake and what she had done to correct it,” says Perakis.