Preparing For Patient Influx: Managing New Patient Intake

As more Americans become insured through Medicaid expansion and insurance exchanges, practices across the country are experiencing an increase in new patient demand. This new demand can be an exciting time of growth and prosperity for a practice, but only if staff is well-prepared for the influx. When ill-prepared for patient influx, practices can lose sight of collections and can quickly lose its opportunity for profitability.

When the intake process isn’t managed well, two things happen 1) Patients receive poor service, experience long wait times and often leave unsatisfied and 2) Patient information isn’t collected or tracked properly, payers are billed incorrectly and practices lose money. Neither of these scenarios is desirable for any practice looking to stay in business.

So how can practices prepare for new patient influx, ensuring things not only go smoothly for both practice and patient without collections and profitability getting lost in the process either?

Get a Website and Use It

Falling way behind other industries in their online presence, it’s time for physician’s to tap into the power of hosting a website. A website can greatly impact the new patient intake process by allowing patients to download necessary forms to be completed before arriving at the office. This way the patient shows up, forms completed, ready for intake. Alternatively, a website allows practices to operate an online portal, allowing patients to pay bills and co-pays online – giving them more options for payment and increasing the practice’s likelihood for collections. A website also gives patients another avenue for communication with a practice; they can utilize a contact us function to submit questions about office policies and procedures.

Develop Phone Flow Guidelines

Many times staff is left to create their own guidelines for standard procedures. This creates inconsistency in how things operate and often leads to confusion and lost information. Phone calls can often be seen as a nuisance or an “interruption” by office staff struggling to manage patients in the office. Emphasizing the importance of customer service procedures over the phone and collecting accurate information can make all the difference in successful patient intake.

As a new patient intake phone call rule of thumb staff should:
1)  Collect patient demographic and contact information
2)  Determine reason for the call (medical condition, routine check-up etc…)
3)  Collect ACCURATE insurance information and policyholder information
4)  Explain intake process to patient and direct them to appropriate resources for information or instruct them to arrive early for their appointment to complete paperwork.

Maximize Patient Visit

Use the time a patient is in the office wisely. In the best case scenario, new patients are arriving for appointments with paperwork and disclosure forms completed. From an effective intake phone call, staff has already collected their demographic and insurance information and pre-verified their insurance eligibility. If all this has happened the practice is well ahead of the game and the patient has experienced a smooth intake experience. The only thing left for the patient to do is see the physician, which is exactly what they are there for. For an even more seamless experience, practices can use a Save on File payment program which securely saves the patient’s card information on file. This streamlines the check out process for following visits and helps patients to check out quickly and easily. 

Follow Up

Follow up! Who has time for that? I know, I know – Practices are busy and adding another step to the process seems tedious and unnecessary. Keep in mind – as the healthcare industry moves more in the direction of a consumer directed business, these kinds of customer service basics will take practices a long way in patient retention. Follow up is an important aspect of the new patient experience for several reasons. First, patients will give you feedback about staff and operating procedures that will help practices grow and improve on what they are doing – there is always room for improvement. Second, a follow up phone call allows practitioners to check that patients are following through with their recommended care plans. And finally, a follow up phone call can also be an opportunity to collect an unpaid balance or co-pay.

With some or all of these strategies in place, well trained staff and effective interoffice communication, practices will find their new patient intake process happening seamlessly. Without this type of structure, staff is overwhelmed, patients are unhappy and the practice itself will find it increasingly difficult to grow and prosper.