From the patient’s perspective, a great registration experience is quick and easy. “Investments should be made in technologies that reduce the time between the moment a need for services is identified to the point the service is delivered,” says Dawn Artur, CRCR, senior director of patient access at Burlington, MA-based Wellforce.
What patients expect from registration is driven by advancements already seen in the retail and hospitality industries. “They want personalized services through technologies that recognize them as loyal customers, and self-service technologies that give them control over the process,” Artur notes.
How much patient-friendly technology exists for revenue cycle varies. In the Indianapolis area, self-service is common for all kinds of revenue cycle processes, says John Woerly, RHIA, CHAM, FHAM, an Indianapolis-based revenue cycle consultant. “However, in speaking with a number of patient access leaders on the West and East coasts, I have recently found that it is not as pervasive as I had previously assumed,” Woerly admits.
Consumers expect a better, self-service registration opportunity, but hospitals are putting off technology investments that can improve the patient experience. “In one healthcare system, I was told by the C-suite that they desired to move to this new trend; however, as they would be converting their legacy EHR within a few months, they decided to wait until post-deployment when conditions and processes were more stabilized,” Woerly recalls.
At another large healthcare system, leaders noted lower revenues and other competing projects (in this case, service expansions and building replacements) made it difficult to deploy self-service technologies. “Lost revenue due to the pandemic has made it even harder. Projects are all competing for resources — time, money, and people,” Woerly notes.
Some hospitals cannot add patient-friendly technology because of limitations imposed by their current systems. “They have not yet moved to a digital platform that can provide such applications,” Woerly explains.
Patients at those hospitals still have to call in for scheduling, preregistration, and upfront collections. At some locations, this could be handled on site at kiosks, but even using kiosks is not that prevalent any longer. “Many people are uncomfortable with the use of kiosks, which is primarily the reason self-service intake is becoming more popular,” Woerly reports.
To really create a registration experience consumers expect, including self-service options, hospitals must “consider many issues beyond a simple cost analysis,” Woerly says. High expectations are a worry. Patients will be disappointed if they expect it to be as easy as shopping at Amazon. “Consumers expect top service experiences, including live chat if they have questions while self-registering,” Woerly says.
Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and predictive analytics all are available. Slowness to adopt these new tools stalls progress on a better registration experience. “New technologies and processes are essential to allow self-service intake,” Woerly says.