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Aligning the Patient Intake Process to Accelerate Care Delivery

Streamlined patient intake technology can boost operational efficiencies, meeting both patient and provider needs.

Consumer and provider priorities have continued to evolve over the years and more consistently have started to align at the point-of-service around patient intake.

Both patients and providers continue to value the need to complete proper documentation, compliance, and clinical forms prior to service so that when patients come into the office for their appointment, they can go straight into the exam room.

This reduces wait time for patients and streamlines the front office for providers, who are increasingly hamstrung by staff shortages.

“The goals that both new patients and existing patients have align very closely with the provider's goals, which are to get paperwork done in advance, get into the appointment quickly, efficiently, and ready to consume care. By getting out of the waiting room in a timely manner, getting in front of the provider, and getting back to resuming the patient’s day-to-day as quickly as possible ensures efficiency for the patient,” according to David Dyke, chief product officer for Relatient.

Healthcare organizations can achieve better workflows and align patient and provider experiences by implementing a proactive patient intake process. Leveraging patient intake tools, which should feed data directly into scheduling and communication systems, allows both new patients and existing patients to complete necessary forms, understand and even fulfill financial obligations, provide direct feedback in surveys, and ultimately have a connected engagement experience throughout their care.

The patient intake process needs to accommodate the fact that there are two different patient types and priorities at play. There is the new patient, who must complete new patient registration forms, sign HIPAA disclosures, provide medical history details, among other key information to allow them access to the clinic or hospital system.

There are also existing patients, who might need to confirm some history or update some demographic information, but who largely have already completed their paperwork.

“A new patient traditionally requires a lot of pre-work from both the patient and staff member registering them,” Dyke explained. “An existing patient may have little to no updates to their information or medical history. And a provider who has good processes in place along with integrable systems can automate each set of patient type requirements to allow for a seamless experience at the point-of-service.”

Finally, there are providers themselves who are looking for solutions that work seamlessly with their existing practice management systems or EHRs. Not every system has gotten to the point of full integration like that, Dyke indicated, so a dynamic patient intake tool that can consider new patients, existing patients, and provider personalization will be critical.

“The defining characteristic in those things from the provider side is the capabilities of their practice management system, EHR, and what it can consume,” Dyke said. “Helping an organization define their objectives starts with understanding the constraints that they live in. If you have a practice management system that doesn't allow real-time data transfers, you can still potentially cut the problem in half by transitioning from manual data entry based off of handwritten forms to automating patient data and preferences that make it easier, and faster, and more efficient for your teams.”

Patient intake technology streamlines patient, provider point-of-service experience

Patient intake technology can help accomplish a shared goal between consumers and providers: getting the patient into the exam room with all paperwork completed and with minimal wait time or interruption.

“It's about speed and quality and general customer experience—they are all aligned in the area of patients and providers,” Dyke said. “Check-in and payments especially are very much aligned in terms of when it's easier for both parties, it's easier for everybody.”

For example, having the patient intake process happen digitally before a patient even steps foot into the clinic means they can quickly move into the exam room, cutting out the lag time in the waiting room and delivering on a better patient experience. In 2018, data from Vitals revealed that healthcare organizations with shorter wait times see higher patient experience scores; five-star providers boasted wait times at 13 minutes, compared to 34-minute wait times for one-star providers.

In addition, providing out-of-pocket costs and payment plan options for the patient during and after the point of service allows the patient to financially plan accordingly. In turn, the patient becomes more likely to pay the bill, keeping a healthy cash flow for the provider.

“If you tell the patient what their balance is, you give them options for how and when to pay it, and then communicate those options effectively, that's a really good experience for people,” Dyke explained. “And you see dramatic improvements in collections.”

Research shows that most healthcare providers are relying on paper billing options, even though nearly half of consumers prefer digital communications about their financial responsibility and to pay their bills online.

This lack of alignment in provider capabilities and consumer preference could be causing delays in collections, the data suggested, but streamlined digital billing and reminders could allay that issue.

There are also regulatory benefits to this.

“For years and years, the world's been talking about how to reduce confusion and surprises. We've seen the federal regulations now on the No Surprises Act,” Dyke pointed out. “The law’s principles are very, very well understood, which is, ‘a patient doesn’t want to get a bill for something that they didn't expect.’ Setting expectations is directly proportional to collections. If you help patients understand their portion of the bill and give them a choice of how they want to pay it, they're going to do it.”

Streamlining patient intake and communication solutions onto a single platform delivers a pro-active and seamless experience for both the patient and the provider.

Completing patient registration and visiting with the provider shouldn’t be the end of the patient journey.

“The patient journey is not a one-and-done experience. It's an ongoing cycle that continues to evolve,” Dyke said. “Whether you visited a single provider only once over the course of your life, or 30 times over the course of one year, is independent of the fact that those touchpoints should be contiguous and additive to the previous one. Points of communication need to be done in the context of knowing your patient profiles, understanding their preferences, and ensuring each new communication will be contextually relevant to the previous one.”


About Relatient

At Relatient, we believe that the key to better health is better access. Better access lies at the intersection of scheduling and communication. Our Dash® platform combines best-in-class patient self-scheduling and centralized scheduling with modern two-way patient communication tools to provide better ace ss for patients, better utilization for providers, and better outcomes for all.

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