The last time the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services conducted a survey, it counted almost 126 million annual outpatient department visits alone, which doesn’t even take into account individuals with overnight stays.
This means hospitals have an incredible opportunity to improve patient satisfaction by taking a hard look at the efficiency of their patient intake process.
The process can be extremely frustrating for the patient who must take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes to manually complete the necessary forms requiring health insurance, medical history, and demographic information. And HIPAA regulations requiring consent and re-verification of patient information bog the process down even further for both patients and medical professionals.
Here are some best practices to improve the patient intake process and increase patient satisfaction along the way:
Leverage Technology as a Communication Vehicle
Automated messaging via text or email can deliver important information to patients about billing, medical insurance, follow-up care, and upcoming appointments. Sending notices days or weeks in advance saves time and allows your staff to focus more on care-related functions prior to the actual patient intake date.
Digital health tools like online patient access portals are growing by leaps and bounds. According to a recent American Hospital Association report, 92 percent of patients could view their electronic health records (EHR) online in 2016, versus only 43 percent two years earlier.
One of the benefits of leveraging technology to handle part of the patient intake process –beyond freeing medical professionals to focus on providing care—is the ability to provide 24/7 online personalization and interactivity. Both directly impact patient satisfaction because they show users you respect their time.
Go Paperless Using E-Forms and Electronic Signatures
Moving from the clutter and stagnation of a hard-copy paper environment to a paperless EHR solution is a win-win for both the hospital provider and the patient.
For the hospital, electronic forms (eForms) integrated with the existing EHR environment save tremendous time. They’re always accessible online to providers, patients, and third-party vendors. In addition, they eliminate the need to store bulky paper records which are more vulnerable to being lost, damaged, or subject to fraud.
The signatures needed to authorize medical treatment can be challenging to obtain at the point of service and add to patient stress. Switching to electronic signature capture not only saves time and money, it will also:
- Securely capture all discrete data such as date, time, location, device, and signees
- Automatically link the patient record and e-Form content stored inside an ECM system or shared with other applications
Ensure a Seamless Process for Patients
Make sure software applications are flexible. That means little things like having signees check boxes, answer questions, and enter data right inside easy-to-use signing windows. Any intake software, whether available on-site or electronically, should:
- Be encrypted for data transfer via the internet per HIPAA regulations
- Be very user friendly
- Not require special software or hardware downloads or installation
- Be easily portable into back-end systems
Give Your Staff a Reason to Smile, too
Patient satisfaction and staff productivity go hand in hand. Software applications or paper forms that require data overkill just to sign up for your patient portal or sign in for outpatient care cause hospital staff headaches and the complete opposite of patient satisfaction.
When your patient intake process removes manual and redundant steps for everyone, user adoption becomes quick and painless across the board. Most importantly, word of a great patient experience spreads fast—giving your healthcare organization a valuable reputation as a great work environment and even better care provider.