3 ways to improve revenue at patient check-in

Not only were long wait times a sign of front-desk inefficiencies at Montgomery Cardiovascular Associates (MCA) in Montgomery, Alabama, but in 2012, they were also a symptom of a revenue cycle illness.

After spending thousands of dollars on a patient check-in solution, clinic wait times were still exponentially high. Worse, errors in validating patient data—such as coverage information, addresses and phone numbers—at the point of check in increased the potential for denials on the back end. Revenue was at risk, and patient satisfaction was suffering.

That year, MCA invested in a digital check-in solution that not only processed patients in less than three minutes, but also verified patient demographic data in real time, calculated copays and past-due balances, captured point-of-service collections and fed patient information updates into the clinic’s practice management system. The clinic phased in the full capabilities of the new technology over the next 18 months.

Today, patient check-in times average just 41 seconds, and point-of-service collections have doubled. Eighty-eight percent of patients use the self-service check-in stations, where their insurance information is automatically verified. Claims are no longer missing critical information—and revenue has increased.

The experience of MCA points to the gains healthcare organizations make when they invest resources in transforming the patient check-in process—and the risks they face when they don’t.

Making Big Gains at Check-In
Inefficiencies in patient check-in processes are costly, resulting in lost revenue, increased expense and low patient satisfaction. At a time when healthcare operating revenues are growing in the low single digits and expenses are growing more rapidly than revenue, the need for healthcare leaders to shore up their front-end processes is critical.

There are three ways hospitals and physician practices can improve revenue at the point of patient check-in.

1. Provide an intuitive self-service option for patient check-in that offers real-time automated eligibility checks. It’s common for 3 to 5 percent of provider cash flow to evaporate due to improper registration, documentation, coding and back-end processes. Real-time data verification increases the chances for a cleaner claim by ensuring patients are available to fill in information gaps at the point of check-in. At MCA, 98 percent of patient insurance information is verified in real time at the point of check in.
2. Ensure your check-in platform also offers real-time verification of patient demographic information. This information is critical to processing a clean claim and verifies the physician has current and accurate information for all patients. Current and accurate patient demographic information is also essential for follow up, both clinically and on the collections side. Some self-service check-in solutions, such as that used by MCA, also feature inbound integration with the physician practice’s electronic medical record system, so that information is automatically updated in the patient’s health records.
3. Invest in a system that provides the ability to collect payment at the point of service. Self-service platforms that allow patients to pay copays and outstanding balances from previous visits significantly increases payments at the point of service. This functionality also enables patients to store their credit card information and authorizes use of the credit card for remaining balances after insurance is applied, further reducing billing and collections costs.

For example, at Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center in Birmingham, Alabama, 80 percent of patient copays are paid via digital check-in. Meanwhile, 40 percent of payments captured are for past-due balances—revenue the clinic would not have collected without additional efforts and expense.

And at the University of Alabama Hospital-Highlands in Birmingham, Alabama, point-of-service collections in the hospital’s orthopedics clinics, where self-service kiosks were installed in March 2016, have increased 54 percent. Not only are patients paying their copays, but also past due amounts. Some believe they won’t be seen by a physician unless the balance is payed—and because their interaction is with a machine, not front-desk staff, they are less likely to put off paying the amount owed.

A Win-Win for Patients and Clinics
Transforming the patient check-in experience is critical to the financial health of an organization. By devoting resources to enhancing patient check-in, healthcare leaders can protect their organizations from lost dollars due to inefficiencies and errors at the point of contact. It’s an investment that also enhances the check-in experience for patients, improving patient retention and, ultimately, revenue.

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