One recently hired registrar cheerily agreed to take a position for weekend and evening hours at Riverside Regional Medical Center in Newport News, VA. It soon became clear the employee resented working weekends and was not taking the new job seriously.

“It was more of a way to get into the organization while looking for positions in other areas or with different hours,” says Patient Access Director Robin Woodward, CHAM.

Other recent new hires arrived with excellent technical skills but left a trail of dissatisfaction in their wake. The continuing string of complaints all voiced the same type of concern: Employees were not engaged, were not professional, and did not seem to care about patients or other departments. Still other unsuccessful new hires worked so slowly that they were constantly unable to meet productivity goals. This resulted in registration delays and unhappy patients. “When the individual is not in the right role, more often than not you end up replacing [him or her] and starting the process from the beginning,” Woodward laments.

After a few disappointing new hires, the department contacted HR about the problem. Patient access realized that HR did not understand the kind of expertise patient access needed most. This led to an education opportunity.

“By letting your HR partner know what is needed, they can vet that with the applicant to best find the right individuals to interview,” Woodward says.

The first step was to invite HR to attend a patient access monthly management meeting.

“It is important for HR to understand the patient access role and the skill set that is needed,” Woodward notes. Additionally, the department invited the vice president of HR to speak at its quarterly meeting. Above all, patient access stressed to HR that any patient access applicant must demonstrate prior experience in customer service and scheduling, along with knowledge of insurance verification and a willingness to work nights and weekends (if necessary).

HR emerged with a clear understanding of the new patient access role, especially regarding how employees interact with patients and clinicians.

“It is important that individuals are the right fit to be in the role,” Woodward stresses.

As the patient’s first contact, registrars set the stage for everything that follows. This can heavily influence patients’ overall perception of their hospital experience and the satisfaction scores they ultimately give.

“The old saying ‘First impressions are lasting impressions’ is very true in a patient access area,” Woodward adds.