The patient access services department at UCLA Medical Center made the decision to create a designated team for preservice registration and collections many years ago. Since its inception, the team has grown to 11 employees.

“This decision has had tremendous impact on improved patient wait times and hospital collections,” reports Drew D. Totten, principal administrative analyst for patient access services. The preregistration team contacts patients up to 10 days prior to their date of service. “This is to ensure a 95% preregistration rate,” Totten explains. “This greatly reduces patient wait times once they arrive on their date of service.”

Employees confirm patient demographics and other pertinent information. They also address all out-of-pocket costs that are due. “The small percentage of patients who are not preregistered confirm their information and address any financial liabilities on the day of their appointment,” Totten says.

The amount of revenue collected preservice has grown almost 300% over the past two years. “This is largely due to the new payment options available to patients, and thorough training for employees,” Totten says. New payment options are available to patients, including paying by credit card over the phone, paying online through a patient portal, and applying for a zero-interest payment plan. “Another method used by the team is to mail the patient an estimate letter,” Totten adds.

A key focus of training: How to find the amount that’s due, both on the hospital’s system and on insurance websites. “Sometimes, within the computer system, the patient liability may not be clear to the employee,” Totten notes.

Employees also needed help communicating the amount due to patients. “Not all employees feel comfortable asking for the liability,” Totten says, noting scripting helps employees respond to many patient reactions. “This puts the employee more at ease when financial liabilities are addressed.”

For instance, patients often ask to “send me a bill.” First, the employee reminds patients that based on the terms of their insurance policy, they are required to pay their copay or deductible at the time of service. Then, the employee offers to accept a partial payment today, or offers other options to make the payment. Some patients still express their wishes to pay when they come in. “The employee then notes the account appropriately,” Totten says. “The copay is collected once the patient arrives on their date of service.”