Preceptors decrease overtime costs

Retention rate is 10% higher

A preceptor program implemented in 2010 at Palmetto Health Richland in Columbia, SC, "has impacted our employee retention tremendously," reports Ebony Seymour, CHAM, patient access manager. The estimated cost for training a new hire is about $5,000, including the salary of the education and training specialist.

"The goal of the program is to have the highest performers in each area teach the new employee the appropriate way to perform the job responsibilities of a patient access representative," says Seymour. Here are the steps that occur:

• Each supervisor identifies one or two high-performing employees to participate.

These high performers have rates of more than 97% accuracy and have consistently good collection rates. "By providing new employees with adequate training and support, we have found they want to make patient access their home," Seymour says. "Our goal is transition patient access into a career and not an entry-level position."

High turnover means an increase in overtime usage and possibly delays in patient care due to longer waits at registration, says Seymour. "The increased use of overtime may cause patient access departments to be over their allotted salary budget," she says. "That will in turn affect the financial success of the organization."

• Participants complete classes on billing and insurance, the revenue cycle, and patient accounts, taught by education and training specialists.

The classes are a continuation of the information taught in new employee orientation, says Seymour.

• Once a new employee completes the training sessions, he or she is paired with the preceptor of their assigned area for additional training.

Preceptors show new employees how to use the document imaging system, the electronic signature process, and the patient tracking system and help them to understand the patient flow of the area, says Seymour.

• The preceptor is responsible for getting the new employee acclimated to the area and answering any questions.

Often, employees need help organizing paperwork and answering insurance questions. "Preceptors are the 'go-to' person for the new employees. They are always easily accessible during the first 90 days of employment," says Seymour.

New employees have told Seymour that the preceptor program made them feel supported and welcomed. "It has helped us retain great people and create a positive first impression of the admissions department," she says. "Our retention rate has increased by 10% within the first year."