At Evanston, IL-based NorthShore University HealthSystem, patients can schedule appointments with almost every specialty, and also for services such as radiology and colonoscopies. “We allow both new patient and established patient scheduling, and some procedural scheduling,” says Cynthia LaCourt, MBA, MM, FACHE, CCS-P, assistant vice president of revenue cycle.

Patients can update demographic and insurance information, check in, verify registration information, upload insurance card images, and pay copays and outstanding balances. Patients also can auto-arrive for appointments, using their phones’ geolocation capabilities. Now, LaCourt’s department is going even further. “We recently implemented estimates,” she reports. Patients choose applicable physician and hospital services, and generate price quotes based on their insurance or as self-pay.

For some patient access areas, all this self-service means less call volume and less preregistration work. There is a caveat: Patients are looking for a quick, easy experience. If they do not get it, they will revert to the old, labor-intensive system. “If self-service is too cumbersome, with lots of questions and multiple steps, patients will pick up the phone and call because it’s easier,” LaCourt says.

To prevent this, patient access departments are investing in technology to give patients the self-service experience they expect. Indiana University (IU) Health is piloting IU Health Mobile Registration. These steps occur:

  • When a patient schedules an appointment, a text message is sent automatically shortly before that appointment.
  • At that point, the patient completes check-in. That includes securely submitting photos of government ID and insurance cards via their mobile device. Patients can add demographic information and e-sign required forms.
  • On the day of the appointment, patients receive an additional text. This allows them to check in from their mobile device when they are within one mile of the appointment address and one hour of the appointment time.

“This step alerts our care team to the patient’s arrival. We offer a concierge-style reception, and guide the patient to their appointment,” says D.J. Plavsic, MBA, CRCR, executive director of patient access and the revenue cycle.

For returning patients, the most recent registration information is prepopulated. Those patients look at what is on file and update as needed, without entering it all again. “This saves time for patients. All registration data and images feed directly into our electronic medical record system in real time,” Plavsic says.

IU Health is in the final stages of development for the Mobile Registration product, to be launched this spring.

“Across the industry, progress in deployment of this type of technology has been slowed due in part to complex systems architecture and a lack of ideal functionality,” Plavsic notes.

During the initial rollout, the focus was on scheduled appointments and insured patients. “We are looking forward to enhancements in future phases, with increased functionality,” Plavsic says.

Coming next: appointments with a broader range of patients, including children; unscheduled walk-ins; ED visits; and patient estimates delivered by text. “Our goal in 2021 is to have a one-stop shop mobile environment,” Plavsic reports. “Patients will perform all access-related functions — scheduling, registration, viewing estimates, and checking in — from the same platform.”