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Have staff gotten their CHAM or CHAA?
If not, there's no time like the present
Some front-end staff, unfortunately, view your department as a revolving door or jumping-off point. However, others choose to make a long, fruitful career for themselves in the field of patient access.
Obtaining Certified Healthcare Access Associate (CHAA) or Certified Healthcare Access Manager (CHAM) certification is an important milestone for a staff member, and an indication that your employee may be part of the group that's there to stay.
Connie Longuet, CHAM, director of patient access services at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, sits on the National Association of Healthcare Access Management's (NAHAM) certification committee. "There are approximately 500 CHAMs and 3,500 CHAAs as of May 2010," she reports. "I got involved because I strongly feel that patient access should be a career choice, not just a job."
Longuet says that as health care is "a very dynamic industry with new rules and regulations constantly being introduced, patient access staff must continually stay on top of the current trends to ensure financial success for their institutions."
When employees obtain CHAA and CHAM certification, employers should celebrate this accomplishment by publishing the news in newsletters and posting it on communication boards, Longuet recommends.
While MD Anderson does not require the CHAA and CHAM certifications for a position in patient access, they are listed as "preferred." The center will implement a new skills program this fall. Patient access specialists have the opportunity to receive up to $1,200 per year for passing the CHAA, performing highly on their evaluation, continuing their customer service training, and passing institution-specific competency assessments.
It's not enough for individuals to demonstrate good patient access skills. They also need to set achievable evaluation goals, participate in performance improvement projects, mentor other patient access staff, and enhance their customer service skills through continuing education.
"Our patient access staff are reacting positively to the opportunity for additional recognition and pay," says Longuet. "We have 62 staff members sitting for the CHAA."
Certification is an integral part of the new skills program, both at the national level and at the institution level. "The CHAA ensures that a patient access specialist has the knowledge to successfully process patients, from the point of first contact through final services being rendered," says Longuet.
To demonstrate that the institution values continuing education, MD Anderson Cancer Center covers the cost of the certification for all staff who wish to achieve this status. "The CHAM ensures that our managers have the managerial skills and patient access knowledge to lead our teams successfully," says Longuet.
Don't forget re-certification
"Re-certification is just as important as initially passing the CHAA or CHAM," says Longuet. "Once an individual has earned their certification, they must show initiative to keep it. This is a valued trait that employers look for."
Maintaining certification does not require any additional testing. "It merely requires someone to continue growing with their profession by showing continuing education activities," says Longuet.
By completing the education requirements needed to recertify, an individual shows he or she is actively involved in the industry. "There is a continued commitment to keep up with current trends, setting this apart from a job and making it a career choice," says Longuet.
Losing their CHAA or CHAM status means that staff no longer receive the additional skills pay. "It is our duty as patient access directors to ensure training opportunities are available for staff to meet the recertification requirements," says Longuet.
Longuet recommends researching activities that count toward community education, such as those set up through NAHAM. "Many of these are free or inexpensive for an institution," says Longuet. "And, any cost that an institution spends for continuing education will come back to the institution in terms of enhanced revenue cycle processes, resulting in maximum reimbursements."
[For more information, contact: Connie Longuet, CHAM, Patient Access Services, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Boulevard, Houston, TX 77030. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.]