Modern medicine is a true marvel. The way illnesses are diagnosed and treated is constantly evolving. Unfortunately, that kind of innovation doesn’t always bleed over into the patient experience. Walk into any doctor’s office in the country, and you’re likely to find patients working diligently from clipboards, filling out forms, and shuffling through their wallets for insurance cards. Indeed, patient intake procedures have hardly changed over the last decade.
This old school approach to medical intake procedures has a ripple effect throughout the doctor’s office. Staff must organize treatment rooms and wait for patients as they continue to fill out their paperwork. When forms aren’t completed ahead of time, the entire day’s routine can be thrown off. This frequently leads to denied claims, delayed preauthorization, and increased wait times for everyone in the waiting room.
Improving the patient intake process, on the other hand, can do wonders for productivity and patient satisfaction. With a few minor adjustments to the way your practice handles new patient intake, you’re sure to see your reputation for patient care and efficiency skyrocket. Here’s how:
Setting the Tone
The patient experience begins long before a person ever steps foot in the waiting room. From the moment they call to schedule an appointment, patients expect helpful, efficient service from their providers. To modernize your patient intake process, start by delivering on those expectations during your scheduling calls. Give patients the freedom to book online or over the phone – they’ll appreciate the flexibility.
After they book an appointment, help patients stay in touch with your office by providing appointment confirmations and reminders. Such a gesture can let patients know that you value their time while simultaneously reducing the odds of no shows. Strategies to improve patient intake efficiency don’t have to reinvent the wheel to be effective.
Shorter Waits, Happier Patients
Nobody likes to wait. This is especially true when you’re at the doctor’s office. Patients may feel anxious about their appointments, nervous about their diagnosis, and eager to get on with their day. Too often, though, patients are forced to endure long wait times in both the waiting room and in the examining room. By improving medical intake procedures, you can minimize this frustrating experience for patients and staff alike.
Just how do you go about reducing wait times? It starts with a seamless intake process. By digitizing the experience, you’ll give front desk staff more free time to focus on the patients waiting to be seen. An answering service for doctors can transform the waiting room experience. In turn, daily procedures move quickly, deliver faster results, and get patients in and out as efficiently as possible.
The Impact of Faster Check-In
A number of outpatient facilities still require patients to fill out paperwork at each visit. This paperwork is often duplicative – patient names, contact information and insurance details sometimes need to be entered into the computer by staff time and time again. This manual patient intake process takes up valuable time, causing delays for both staff and patients.
With a healthcare phone answering service partner like MAP Communications on your side, it’s easy to collect this information ahead of time. Agents can follow customized call scripts when scheduling appointments for patients, taking care to protect their private details in compliance with HIPAA standards. On the back end, stakeholders can organize and track patient calls, making sure that each one is handled in a timely fashion. This leads to less stress for everyone involved.
Improved Workflow Makes Healthcare Staff Happier, Too
Reducing administrative wait times gives doctors and nurses more time to spend with patients. It also allows front desk staff the freedom to dedicate their focus to daily operational duties. Patient intake is perhaps one of the most important parts of the modern healthcare experience, but it’s often delivered by stressed out, overworked administrative workers.
We’ve all dealt with a brusque medical receptionist at some point or another. These folks are often completely overwhelmed by all that’s on their plate. Their frustration spills out into the patient experience, jeopardizing practice growth and potentially threatening the organization’s public reputation. The solution? Take inbound calls off their to-do list and watch the entire facility’s stress levels go down. Patients may not be able to put their fingers on precisely what has changed, but with fewer calls interrupting front desk staff, the impact will be palpable.
The Power of Electronic Messaging
The patient intake process can begin long before a person ever sets foot in your waiting room. To ensure they receive the best care possible, patients are required to provide details on their medical history, allergies, family history, and history of hospitalizations. They’ll also need to provide information about their insurance plan. That’s a lot for patients to keep track of, especially when their mind is on their appointment and reason for coming in.
Electronic messaging, whether through email or text, can help remind patients of what to bring to each appointment. You can also use these tools to remind patients of other important responsibilities, like preparation or payment. HIPAA-compliant secure messaging platforms provide a secure way to communicate these details before a patient ever steps foot into your practice.
A friendly message prior to the appointment can also help set expectations. This will ensure patients show up more often with anything they might need. It can even put them at ease more often if they know what to expect upon arrival.
If you’re hoping to improve patient intake, you’ll first need a thorough understanding how your current practices impact patients. Patient satisfaction surveys can reveal important truths about your existing intake procedures. Send surveys after each appointment to gain insight and feedback into how your policies are impacting each patient. You’ll gain valuable data that can shape future patient intake strategies.
Once you have all this useful data collected, take a hard look at pain points. Patients may express frustration with the amount of paperwork they’re asked to complete, might feel annoyed at long wait times, or applaud your team for providing quality service. You can’t know until you ask, so prioritize patient satisfaction surveys as a tool for improving intake processes.
Editing Intake Packets
One of the most time-consuming parts of the intake process is completing paperwork. Nobody enjoys this part – it’s annoying to fill out page after page of personal details, especially when they’ve often already provided the information on previous occasions. It’s a good idea to review your existing patient intake packets to make sure there aren’t redundancies. If there are any sections of the packet that patients can skip over, let them know – or take that portion out entirely.
While you’re reviewing these packets, check to see if there are any missing or outdated forms. Your intake packet should collect patient demographics and contact information. It should also include statements on your practice’s financial policy, an assignment of benefits form, a HIPAA acknowledgement statement, and consent forms, when necessary. Improving the patient intake process often means editing these packets down after years of bloated, unnecessary additions.
Greet Patients Upon Walk-In
Do you offer patients an immediate “hello” as they walk into your office? If not, you should. Ignoring patients sends a confusing message. Patients who aren’t greeted upon arrival may start to wonder if they had their appointment time wrong since no one seems to be expecting them. In other cases, patients may not feel welcome at all. In fact, many may feel like an inconvenience to the front desk staff’s day.
Your initial greeting sets the tone for the entire appointment. As you train your staff, encourage them to greet each person as they enter. A friendly hello goes a long way to welcome patients to your practice.
From there, instruct each person that walks through the door on what they should do next. Should they visit the front desk? Sit down? Fill something out? Front desk employees should also collect patient intake packets, offer patients coffee or water (when available), show them where to sit, and inform them of how long they can expect to wait to be seen. Patients will feel immediately more comfortable and get the sense that your team truly values their time.
Modernize Your Patient Intake Process
If it has been awhile since your patient intake process was reviewed, it’s time to upgrade. MAP Communications offers a number of useful services for healthcare professionals. Use our medical call center services to transform the way your appointments are scheduled. A virtual receptionist can learn the ins and outs of your policies and procedures, delivering clear messaging to callers no matter the time of day.
After partnering with MAP, you’ll see an immediate impact on the patient intake process. Front desk staff will have more time to dedicate to welcoming patients and answering questions. Patients themselves will be more informed about what to expect. From the top down, your team and patients will be less stressed by the entire process.
Want to give MAP a try with zero commitments? We’re currently offering a free trial of our live answering service. For one week, you’ll reap all the benefits of a partnership with MAP with no obligation to continue using our services after the trial period ends. No credit card information is required for the trial, making this a truly risk-free opportunity. Of course, as many of our satisfied partners will tell you, once you try MAP, it’ll be hard to go back to your existing patient intake process. Sign up today to see the difference for yourself!
Here are some related articles you might be interested in:
How to Improve Customer Experiences with Call Answering Services
5 Ways to Grow Your Medical Practice [Infographic]
Understanding Customer Needs: What Do Clients Want & Expect from a Business