From call intake and the reception/registration process, your medical practice can do a number of things to ensure that patients are received and brought into your practice in an optimal manner. You want to be sure that you have a smooth intake process: one that will ensure that your practice has all the necessary information concerning your patients, as well as provide a smoother experience for your patients. Try these strategies to ensure that you’re optimizing the patient intake process at your practice.
Step One: Optimize Your Forms
Your intake forms provide a wealth of information to the doctors and nurses throughout your practice. They establish critical information about your patient, from their age and gender, to the reason they’re in your office. While you want to be sure that you capture all of the relevant information, it’s also important to make sure that you aren’t asking patients to provide more information than really necessary. Excessive information requests can slow down the intake process and make it harder for patients to get checked in with your office. Try some of these strategies to optimize the process.
- Opt for online forms rather than paper forms. Not only will this help prevent misunderstandings on the physician’s end (no more poor handwriting or boxes that “might” have been checked), it will help get the information in front of members of your staff faster.
- Omit unnecessary information.
- Make it necessary for patients to fill out all of the needed information, including the reason for their visit to your office on a given day, before they’re able to finish the form.
- Make sure that you collect insurance information as part of the intake. Patients should have their insurance cards with them at the visit!
- Customize your forms according to patient answers. For example, one common question is, “Do you drink alcohol?” If the patient answers “No,” there’s no need to answer further questions. On the other hand, if the patient answers, “Yes,” a new question should appear: “How much/how often do you drink?” This will help streamline the process for many patients.
Step Two: Collect Signatures Online Too
Whether you’re filling out paperwork or signing your HIPAA policy, go ahead and opt for online collection. This paperless method will make it much easier for your office staff to connect necessary information about patients, file it, and protect that information within your encrypted systems. In many cases a quick signature on a pad is much more effective and efficient than a paper system–and over time, it can save your office a significant amount of money on paper.
Step Three: Validate Insurance ASAP
Collecting patient payments is often one of the most difficult parts of the patient intake process. Many offices get it backwards: instead of collecting at the beginning of the appointment, before the patient is seen, they try to collect copays, deductibles and other payments after services have been rendered. In some cases, collecting those funds can become incredibly difficult! Instead, follow these steps to ensure that you’re able to collect patient payment up front.
- Ask for insurance information at each appointment. Validate that information.
- Make sure you’re familiar with what coverage each patient has and how much they’ll be responsible for paying for each appointment. Give them access to that information early in the process so that they will be able to cancel the appointment or reschedule it if needed in order to afford their financial responsibilities.
- Collect payment before the patient goes back to see the doctor. Not only does this ensure that you will be able to collect payment, it also makes it possible for the patient to leave more quickly when the appointment is over–and it will avoid any potential misunderstandings.
Step Four: Offer Pre-Appointment Paperwork
Before your patient even comes in for the appointment, they should have the opportunity to get all of that paperwork filled out and ready to go. This will make it easier to move the patient straight back for their appointment when they arrive at the office. If you’re filling out that paperwork online, it’s easy to send a link to your patients before they arrive. Hint: make sure that you use your practice name in the email address and include it as part of the subject line to help ensure that patients will open the email as it’s sent to them. This will create a smoother process and increase the odds that patients will actually arrive at the appointment with their information filled out.
Step Five: Use the Right Software Solution
You want a software solution that will help you manage patient relationships and ensure that you’re able to watch patients as they move through the process with your office, whether it’s in the initial steps to becoming a patient or the later steps as they become a repeat patient or interact with your office more frequently. You need patient relationship software that will track call volume, track potential patients and help improve your relationship with referring providers so that it will be easier for you to connect with your patients. Your software can also make it easier to collect payment, identify information about your patients and confirm insurance information. Make sure that you choose a software provider that will help with managing all of your patient interaction needs and one that integrates easily with your existing systems.
Managing your patient intake process is an ongoing activity that can present a wide range of challenges, particularly as your practice becomes larger. By following these key steps, however, you can ensure a smoother experience for both your office workers and your patients, leaving you with more time to focus on the more important elements of patient care.
Are you looking for more help optimizing your patient intake process? Contact us to learn how we can create a more efficient intake, whether you’re improving your patient capture or aiming for better customer service for all of your patients. Advantage Healthcare Consulting provides our experience to your practice, allowing you to create more effective policies and procedures.