Revamp processes for computer downtime
Protracted recovery periods can occur
Incorrect data, claims denials, protracted recovery periods, and confusion for the entire organization can occur if patient access "drops the ball" during computer downtime.
"Everything starts with access staff. So if systems are down, the entire process is affected," says Rodney Adams, director of preservice and patient access at Maury Regional Medical Center in Columbia, TN.
Patient access staff members must know downtime procedures and how they fit into the process, says Adams. Recovery processes also are important, so that when systems come back up, the backlog of data is entered quickly and accurately.
Patient access employees at Littleton (CO) Adventist Hospital recently had an eight-hour scheduled downtime. To prepare, patient access leaders reviewed all policies and procedures with staff during staff meetings.
The downtime process is documented in a reference book easily located in the registration areas, says Jill Eichele, CHAA, manager of patient access services. "So if it is not a scheduled downtime, they can pull the book and follow the process and procedures," Eichele says. "It is easy to get comfortable and not review this, but our experience has taught us to always be prepared."
During downtime, everything has to be done on paper, such as a patient's moving from the emergency department to an inpatient nursing unit. "That has to be tracked manually so that once the computers are back up, we can get the patient to the correct location in the system," Eichele says.
Because all patients have to be put back into the system once the computer is up, the work has to be done twice: once on paper and again in the computer. "So until the computers come back up, the amount of work keeps piling up," says Eichele. "The longer the system is down, the longer the recovery time."
Make recovery go smoothly
Patient access employee are the ones who are responsible for balancing the census once the system is back up.
"If things are not organized, it can make recovery very difficult," Eichele says. "The longer it takes patient access to recover, the longer other departments are down."
Because other departments cannot get into the system until patient access has balanced the census, this issue potentially can impact patient care and safety. "Other problems can include not having complete information," says Eichele. "The computer system requires certain fields to be filled out, and these could be forgotten on a paper process." These approaches are used:
One person manages the census list at all times.
"Anytime there is a call for a status change, that gets reported to the person managing the census list," says Eichele.
Calls are made at regular intervals to the nursing units to verify that the census file is up to date.
"This helps in moving the charts from one category to the next, in order to ensure a quick and smooth recovery," says Eichele.
Patient access leaders work closely with other departments to set specific procedures in place for handoffs and who will be communicate certain information.
"When good communication takes place, it makes the recovery process go faster," says Eichele.
- For more information about computer downtime and patient access areas, contact:
- Rodney Adams, Director of PreService and Patient Access, Maury Regional Medical Center, Columbia, TN. Phone: (931) 490-7103. Fax: (931) 490-3910. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Jill Eichele, CHAA, Patient Access Services, Littleton (CO) Adventist Hospital. Phone: (303) 734-2130. Fax: (303) 734-3936. Email: email@example.com.