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If a department had all the available “bells and whistles” vendors are offering for self-service options, patients could completely bypass registration altogether.
“There is a big push to implement tools that allow the patient to be more in control,” says Patti Consolver, CHAA, CHAM, FHAM, senior director of patient access at Texas Health Resources in Arlington.
It is not just vendors pushing the self-registration concept. Patients also want more self-service options in their registration experience. “Patients are increasingly aware of the gap between their everyday consumer experience and their healthcare experience,” says Howard Bright, vice president of patient engagement at Livonia, MI-based RevSpring.
People have become accustomed to digital boarding passes for airlines, self-checkout at grocery stores, and one-click shopping. In contrast, the registration process seems hopelessly antiquated. In theory at least, it is now possible for patients to do it all themselves: scheduling appointments, paying balances, signing consent forms, and even setting up payment plans. “Patients could report to the service area on the day of the procedure, completely bypassing registration,” Consolver says.
Patients soon could be in complete control of their registration, whether that happens over the phone, online, or through a mobile app. “Patient access needs to stay relevant as we get further into the digital patient experience,” Consolver suggests.
However self-registration is introduced, patient access leaders need to keep a close watch on satisfaction. Whether patients will take full advantage of the option is an open question. Registering for surgery is not the same as buying an airline ticket. “Patients tend to want hand-holding during their healthcare journey,” Consolver observes.
As patients handle more of the preservice work themselves, the role of front-end registration inevitably is going to change. “Patient access needs to get ahead of this, so they are leading the charge and not being pushed,” Consolver notes.
Self-scheduling is convenient and saves time. “But patient access teams still need to cater to patients’ preferences,” says Joe Polaris, senior vice president of product and technology at R1 RCM, a revenue cycle management company based in Chicago.
A tech-savvy, overworked parent might want a self-service experience that does not include speaking to a live person. Others prefer a traditional phone or face-to-face encounter. Regardless of self-service gaining traction, patient access remains the “friendly and educational face of the organization, putting patients at ease and helping them navigate the complexities of healthcare,” Polaris says.
The obvious question for patients who now have to input demographic and insurance information on their own: What’s in it for them? “Patients should be rewarded for self-registering because it reduces hospital workload,” Bright offers.
People pay for the TSA precheck option because it speeds them through airport security lines. The same should be true for patients who go to the trouble of self-registering, says Bright: “They should be rewarded with a ‘fast-pass’ mentality, and be called back right away.” Not everyone has the skills to self-register. Some people may have adult children or caretakers helping them.
“Ensuring that these third parties can participate in the registration process is essential,” Bright stresses.
Patient access should “start collecting more patient data and do it as early in the patient journey as possible,” says Steve David, RevSpring’s vice president of patient messaging. Collecting current email addresses and home and cell numbers is necessary; so is learning the patient’s communication preferences. “Also be aware of guarantor, responsible party, and caretakers who may be involved in patient communications,” David adds.
These data allow digital registration to become a reality. All these front-end processes must be connected to the back end and billing, David cautions: “Though in reality systems may be separate, it’s one experience to the patient.”