On-line data delivered at point of scheduling

For the first time, hospitals can confirm patient identification automatically and access financial information services during initial scheduling. The system, using patient scheduling software developed by Jacksonville, FL-based Tempus Software Inc., is the result of an agreement between Tempus and Atlanta-based Equifax, which will provide the financial information, according to a news release from Equifax and Tempus.

The two companies will deliver patient ID verification and financial information services through Tempus' Encompass system. Using automatic trigger technology - the user doesn't have to start the transaction - Encompass will launch an inquiry to Equifax's database when a patient or physician's office calls to schedule a hospital appointment. Equifax will return key identifying information and messages to enable users to confirm patient information and assist patients who may need financial assistance.

Unverified patient identification information can result in difficulty collecting payment for services after discharge, according to the companies. In a recent Equifax study of one typical hospital's records of patients with outstanding past-due balances, analysis revealed that 66% of the patient records had variances in name, address, or Social Security number (SSN). Those records, consisting of three weeks of admissions, represented more than $2 million in outstanding receivables. About one-sixth of the records also received a warning from the Equifax system for reasons such as "SSN issued to person reported deceased" and "address is a mail receiving service."

The system complies fully with the provisions of COBRA and the Fair Credit Reporting Act and is a means to "facilitate admission and to make pre-arrangements for meeting subsequent financial obligations for the self-pay portion of the account," says Margy Jones, senior vice president and general manager of Equifax Healthcare Solutions.

Information on Tempus is on the Web at http://www.tempus.com. The Equifax site is at http://www.equifax.com.