Errors could affect patient’s treatment

Patients and family might perceive the information they give registrars as mundane demographic details, says John Linser, MPA, director of operations for Registration Services at Cincinnati (OH) Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

“We train our employees to always ask for demographic specifics at each encounter,” Linser says. “Some parents consider this to be an annoyance, and verbalize that to our staff.”

Registrars tell patients, ‘We understand this may seem repetitive. But we want be as careful as possible, to have everything right to provide the safest care possible for your child and to be sure the billing process goes smoothly for you.”

“We audit 50% of all registrations against multiple criteria, as well as 100% of all registrations requiring a copay,” says Linser. Patient access managers provide monthly reports to employees, and this information ultimately becomes a significant portion of the annual performance evaluation.

“Our concerns go beyond billing and patient finance,” adds Linser. “An error at registration involving date of birth of a child may create confusion or potential harm for a patient in clinical care.”

Avoid harm to patient

A patient with a date of birth of 02/02/2012 will have significantly different clinical needs than a patient with a date of birth incorrectly entered as 02/02/2002, notes Linser, who adds that registrars use a fully integrated electronic medical record system that includes scheduling, registration, clinical documentation, and billing.

“Obviously, most clinicians will catch an error like this upon the physical presentation of the patient,” says Linser. “But the potential does exist for inaccurate demographic information to cause clinical, as well as financial, harm to the patient and family.”

Poor quality demographic data can result in more direct quality-of-care issues, he warns. For example, an employee might “select” the wrong patient in the system for another patient presenting for an outpatient lab or X-ray.

“The results of those tests may never make it back to the referring physician of the intended patient,” says Linser. “Not only is potentially critical information not communicated, there is also a likely HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act] issue with the physician and patient who were incorrectly selected upon registration.”