Sometimes, it seems the field of patient access is evolving at the speed of light. But one thing has not changed in decades at Norfolk, VA-based Sentara Healthcare: The way patient access leaders relay important information to employees. “Action Alerts” are emailed to staff and posted on department bulletin boards for about a week. Then, these alerts are housed in the department’s shared drive.

“We have been using this format for at least 20 years,” says Mike M. Harkins, CHAM, director of registration at Sentara. About 10 alerts are sent each year. Topics important enough to make the cut include insurance changes, workers’ compensation, technology changes, and new palm vein scanning technology used for patient identification. “Action Alert use is determined by the urgency of the billing impact,” Harkins explains.

These three elements are needed for important information to spread effectively:

An engaged staff who look at emails daily.

A consistent format. Patient access gets bombarded with information in person, on email, and paper memos. There must be a way for staff to easily recognize that this information is something they need to review right away.

“Staff know it when they see it,” Harkins offers. The alerts make this clear by stating “This is a change from current practice” in red capital letters.

A location in the department’s shared drive to house all alerts. Staff need to be able to find these alerts at a later date.