Online pre-registration frees up phone registrars

8% of surgical patients pre-register electronically

Allowing patients the option of pre-registering online is good for patient satisfaction and also frees up patient access staff for those who prefer to speak with a representative.

At all four campuses of California Pacific Medical Center at Sutter Health in San Francisco, surgical patients can pre-register online 24 hours a day, up to one week prior to their procedure. The patient enters his or her demographics, insurance or billing information, primary care physician, and date of service information. Then, the patient sets up a telephone appointment to speak with a nurse facilitator.

"Once they've submitted it, they are sent an automatic e-mail, thanking them for completing step 1 online and reminding them about step 2 — the telephone appointment," says Janice M. Grey, interim manager of patient registration services for California and Davies Campuses at California Pacific Medical Center.

Patient access staff process the online pre-registrations twice each day Monday through Friday, in the morning and afternoon. Once this is done, the patient is sent another e-mail to confirm the date and time of his or her telephone appointment. If patients choose not to share their e-mail address, they are contacted by phone.

One benefit is that patients from out of town or out of state can now preregister. "Also, when patients go online to register, they are also introduced to valuable health information available to them on their procedure," says Grey.

Training for patient access staff was minimal, says Grey, and covered basic registrar skills for pre-registration, e-mailing, and basic knowledge of the online process.

"Patients are pleased that they have been able to complete part of the process online," says Grey. "I believe it gives them a sense of involvement and control for their own care."

With approximately 8% of these patients pre-registering on-line, phone availability has opened up, so staff can be more available for incoming calls from patients who don't have online access or who prefer to speak with a representative, adds Grey.

"We have the option to have the online preregistrations processed by our clinical receptionist/ registrars, who do this function in between scheduled patients when they have down time. This gives even more availability to have registrars available for patients calling in," says Grey.

Online preregistration also is offered to maternity patients. "Because of the demographic age of this patient type, 55%-60% of the 600 patients we service each month register online," says Grey.

Patient access staff really did not have much difficulty implementing this new process, which saves them time just as it does for patients, says Grey. "Getting the information out to our patients that this process was available was one little glitch," she says.

This was handled with informational flyers on the new service, and on how to access the hospital's web site. These were given to all physicians using the surgery department. Patient access managers also had luncheon meetings with the physicians' office staff, letting them know this was an additional way for their patients to pre-register.

"The online system is actually easier for the staff," says Grey. "They are basically just doing data entry, instead of face-to-face interviews with the patients or spending time trying to contact them by phone to do the registration."

[For more information, contact:

  • Janice M. Grey, interim manager, patient registration services, California Pacific Medical Center /California and Davies Campus, P.O. Box 7999, San Francisco, CA 94120-7999. Phone: (415) 600-2790. Fax: (415) 600-2291. E-mail: GreyJM@sutterhealth.org.]