At CHI St. Luke’s Health – Lakeside and Springwoods Village Hospitals in Houston, the medical campus includes several office buildings with many physician practices. This campus layout means a large number of patients are unscheduled “walk-ins.”
“We never know if the day will bring in 25 or 75 unscheduled patients,” says Mike Potter, director of patient access services. “As you can imagine, it’s very difficult to plan for the unexpected.”
The patient access “time-of-service” team, which consists of three registrars and two Welcome Center staff members, handles all walk-in patients.
“We have to adjust in an instant to exceed the expectations of our patients,” says Potter. “To achieve this goal, our team wears many hats.”
The hospital’s electronic medical record (EMR) requires that all patients are “scheduled,” with orders transcribed and linked to the appointment, for the patient to be seen. Patient access employees at the Welcome Center take care of the scheduling and order transcription for walk-in patients. “This dramatically decreases the amount of time the patients spend in registration,” says Potter.
Typically, staff at welcome centers do just that: greet and welcome patients, and possibly perform some minor functions within the EMR. “Not here,” says Potter. “They do it all, just as any other member of the team would do.”
Registrars verify benefits and calculate patients’ out-of-pocket costs. These tasks free the insurance verification team to contact upcoming scheduled patients as far in advance as possible. “They do not need to constantly stop to manage the unscheduled walk-in volumes,” says Potter.