Some big changes to scheduling and registration are underway at Cambridge Health Alliance in Malden, MA. “We want to make those processes easy, streamlined, and standardized,” says Maryann Heuston, senior director of revenue cycle access operations.

The goal is to improve the patient experience. Relaying information about the cost of care to patients sooner (and more accurately) has become paramount. “For patients, one of their big pain points is around the financial aspect of their healthcare,” Heuston notes.

Combining Entry Points

Registration and scheduling are the two initial points of entry for patients. Soon, both points will combine. “We are working toward a ‘schedustration’ work flow,” Heuston reports.

Coverage will be verified at the same time the service is scheduled. A real-time eligibility tool, built into the scheduling and registration systems, will allow for this. This gives patients something they clearly want: to be fully informed upfront. “We are harnessing technology to do a better job with this,” Heuston adds.

Positive changes also are underway for billing. Giving patients a single, simple bill is the goal. Currently, patients are billed separately by the hospital and the physician group, a frequent source of confusion and complaints. “By going to a single bill instead of a split bill, it will be easier for patients to understand their financial responsibilities,” Heuston predicts.

Currently, price estimates are a cumbersome, manual process. It causes considerable amounts of anxiety for patients who fear receiving a surprise bill.

“Patients want to know upfront: Am I covered, and what is an estimate of the cost?” Heuston says, noting new price estimate tools will offer everyone a much clearer, quicker answer.

In the Driver’s Seat

Meanwhile, patient access is busy planning more changes to put information in the hands of the patient. Paying bills online and setting up payment plans eliminate the need for time-consuming calls. “We are trying to leverage MyChart through Epic to do some preregistration there. Possibly at some future date, patients will even schedule their own appointments,” Heuston offers.

Confirming appointments and verifying demographic information are other time-savers in the works. For many patients, the changes seem long overdue. Patients want an “all in the palm of your hand” experience from registration. Patient access is gearing up to “put the patient in the driver’s seat,” Heuston says.

This will improve the patient experience in more ways than one. Patients want transparency and control over their information, yet they also want personal attention during face-to-face encounters. With fewer labor-intensive jobs, registrars can finally give it to them.

“It’s very difficult to collect and verify complicated registration information, be accurate with data quality, quickly check in the patient, and at the same time smile,” Heuston notes.

Offloading unwieldy tasks will help registrars and patients connect on a personal level. “The more technology does it for you, the more you can connect with the patient,” Heuston says.

Checklists will let registrars know which items do not need to be verified because the patient has completed the task already. “Registration and coverage issues are conveyed and resolved prior to check in,” Heuston explains. “Technology is leveraged to do that in a convenient and seamless way.”

Check-in on the data of service becomes a far simpler process. Demographic information is verified. Consent to treat is obtained with e-signatures. Copay collections will be “easy and accurate,” Houston says. Amounts due are displayed, with financial transactions integrated into the registration system. “It does not involve signing into and using a separate application,” Heuston says.

Patients will arrive with fewer questions and less reason to complain. “There will be more opportunities to stress customer service skills once the job has been made easier,” Heuston adds.