Get physician offices to meet the needs of access

Offer options and education

Common obstacles in good communication between patient access departments and physician offices include: duplication of patient demographic data, communication barriers due to turnover in physician practices, or discrepancies in physician billing requirements vs. hospital requirements.  

In many ways, physician offices hold the key to the success of patient access departments, but getting them to meet your needs is often a challenge. The fact is, access requires a great deal of cooperation from physicians, their offices, and their patients.

"We need demographic information, insurance information, and medical information on patients," says Pam Carlisle, CHAM, corporate director of patient access services at Ohio Health in Columbus. "We need them to complete a full order with all of the key elements, and we need them to sign the order. We ask them to utilize our systems to make processes efficient for both parties. What a challenge for all." Here are some proven strategies:

• Build a rapport with the staff.

"We really build on the relationship and ask them if there is anything else we can assist them with. They are our customer, and we want to keep them happy," says Carlisle.

Ohio Health's access managers routinely attend practice manager meetings as a way to present updates and process changes. Also, luncheons are occasionally hosted at the large practices to offer support and guidance.

"We try to minimize the impact of regulatory requirements for hospital billing on their practices. We are always asking them how we can make the process easier for them," says Carlisle. "Putting a face with a name has really gained us some momentum for capturing all the data we need."

• Offer more efficient processes to eliminate duplication of work.

This is a surefire satisfier and can be used to build relationships. "Nobody likes to create more work," says Carlisle. "Offer them techniques that help their office and save them time."

• Allow them to choose an option that works for their practice.

Each physician office environment is a bit different — some are more technical than others, some larger, some smaller. Because of this, their needs vary somewhat.  

"What may seem like an easy, helpful fix to one practice may be viewed as difficult for another," says Carlisle. "We remind them of all the options available for a particular process, and let them pick the one that best suits their practice operations. Giving them choices is a big pleaser."

OhioHealth's access department offers many different ways to schedule an appointment. The office can call, fax, schedule directly at the office, do so online, or have the patient self-schedule. "They choose an option that best fits their work environment, so it is a win-win for both. We get our information, and they get efficiency," says Carlisle.

• Provide training on payer requirements.

There is a pressing need for education on all of the ever-changing, and often quite complex, requirements and regulations. To help with this, OhioHealth's access department created a concise guide on obtaining precertification for outpatient diagnostic services.

The guide lists which tests require precertification, how to obtain precertification by payer, and a list of web sites and phone numbers for all of the various payers. "Staying up with insurance requirements is very difficult, and it is up to us as providers to help educate the practices. They do not always keep up with those things in their offices," says Carlisle. "We put all the information at their fingertips and give them all the details they may not have known about."

• Partner with the physician relations team at you hospital.

"This can prove to be invaluable," says Carlisle. "Because we have a strong relationship with them, we partner on physician process improvements. So we are sending one clear message to our physicians."

Building relationships, offering options, and making processes as automated and efficient as you can "will boost physician satisfaction with your facility. And in turn, that will bring more satisfied patients through your doors," says Carlisle.