Paperwork is a drag on healthcare resources: it increases administrative costs, is inefficient, and taxes the environment. The healthcare sector lags behind other industries in going paperless, even though stakeholder surveys demonstrate broad support for going digital. There are several steps healthcare organizations can take to lead the way into a paperless future.
Don’t Take What You Don’t Need
One of the most obvious steps to reduce paperwork is to limit the amount of information collected on paper. It is good practice, regardless of the medium of collection, to carefully consider what information actually needs to be gathered from the patient. Excessive documentation is a hassle for the patient and a burden for the institution that now has to organize those documents and keep them secure. If patients are asked to handwrite their addresses repeatedly or fill out non-applicable forms, your office is not just leaving a less-than-stellar impression on the patient, it is also leaving money on the table by wasting time and resources. Leverage digital intake forms and patient portals to reduce redundancy.
Capture Email Addresses
Collect an active email address from patients and confirm it with each office visit. An end-to-end email communications plan that includes emailed appointment reminders, billing statements, and receipts reduces paper usage and staff labor hours.
Set the Tone with Paperless Registration and Intake Forms
Offer patients the ability to complete any necessary documentation through secure online intake forms before they arrive for their appointments. Secure online forms that immediately submit data are preferable to forms the patient will wind up printing out to bring to the office. Another paperless alternative is to utilize secure tablets or kiosks in the office for this intake.
Provide Support to Help Patients Navigate their Options
Provide time at registration for front-office staff to walkthrough the options available to patients that will decrease paper usage. Introduce patients to the software features available to them and encourage participation in patient portals and automatic payment plans.
Maximize Online Payments
Ensure patients know how to make a payment through the patient portal, and that emails notifying them of their electronic statements include this information. Patients should also be offered the opportunity to keep a credit card on file or maintain a digital wallet for future payments. Installment plans may be best for patients paying against a large balance (or anticipated balance), while recurring plans may be more appropriate for patients receiving regular, ongoing services. In these cases, a short amount of extra time to get a payment plan established early can pay off down the road in saved collection efforts and, of course, decreased paperwork.
Give Patients Confidence
Patients evaluate the quality of their healthcare experience based on all of their interactions with a healthcare organization, not just the time they spend with the care provider. It is a given that medicine is a fast-moving field, and it is essential for care providers to keep up with the latest evidence and guidelines. A patient may not have the subject matter expertise to assess how well the caregiver is keeping up with the medical literature; however, specialized training is not necessary for a patient to notice if the overall infrastructure of an organization is lagging behind, and in 2018 a reliance on paper is a thing of the past. Give patients confidence by demonstrating efficiency and professionalism throughout the revenue cycle with streamlined, paperless communications.