At the annual conference of the National Association of Healthcare Access Management (NAHAM), attendees focused on the theme, “The Multiple Faces of the Patient Experience.” ABILITY was represented by Sales Engineers Joline Storla and Carrie Blandin, who reported back on how technology is adapting to support the goals of an improved patient experience and better revenue cycle management.
What are the overarching themes you saw at the NAHAM conference?
Carrie: There was a big focus on pre-service financial securing. Hospitals are looking for “point-of-service” solutions, where, instead of waiting until after the service and sending a patient the bill when they have no idea what to expect, they want to work ahead of time to better estimate the final bill, communicate with the patient and collect the out-of-pocket upfront.
Joline: There was also a lot of talk about the two extremes to doing that. On one end of the spectrum, you have a younger generation of patients—the people who are used to doing self-checkout at the grocery store. At the other end of the spectrum are older patients, typically on Medicare, who don’t like those self-service lines.
So hospitals need to think about having both high-touch and low-touch ways to serve that entire spectrum of patients. A young patient might want to walk in, check himself in at a kiosk, and swipe a card to pay his out-of-pocket, while an older patient may want to have a detailed conversation with an admissions rep about what they can expect their out-of-pocket to be.
Carrie: And it’s all tied into improving the patient experience. Communicating about financial aspects ahead of time benefits both the hospital and the patient, because patients are a lot more satisfied when they know what to expect. The alternative is waiting for weeks to pass and the patient finding out their financial obligation when they get a surprise bill in the mail. And then they say, “Why didn’t anyone tell me?”
Joline: Another theme that was emphasized was the importance of staff training. Patient access reps have often been seen as entry-level staffers who only need minimal training, but it’s much more complicated than that and it always has been. Today, with these new issues like pre-collection, patient access reps are actually performing the job a biller used to perform. So it’s vital for hospitals to invest a lot more time into their training so reps can really be experts.
Carrie: And, as you can imagine, the conversations they need to have with patients are often very sensitive. The training needs to be there to help them have those conversations in a respectful way.
What should organizations be doing to prepare for these trends?
Joline: The need for more training means that obviously organizations need to invest in trainers, and perhaps have a dedicated group of trainers as opposed to leaving that responsibility to supervisors. If you leave training in the hands of supervisors, it’s harder to stay consistent and training can often be sidetracked by “fire drills.”
Carrie: And don’t forget about the need for ongoing training. We can’t just train someone and be done with it, especially with changing technology. It’s important to circle back around periodically, make sure staffers have what they need, and retrain if needed.
Joline: The bottom line is there’s a right way and a wrong way to collect money from patients. If you do it the right way, patients won’t look at it as, “Oh, you’re trying to get my money even before I’ve had my surgery.” They’ll look at it as, “This organization is helping me understand my benefits and get payment out of the way so I can focus on my recovery.”
To learn more about how ABILITY applications can help admissions staff improve the patient experience, contact us.
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