There are several steps used to check a patient in to your facility such as scheduling, preregistration, medical history, patient information collection and documentation, the filling out of the patient health survey, medical history form, gathering a patient’s insurance information and copying their insurance card, or cards if they have multiple carriers. Proficiency is crucial during this process in order to properly gather and review patient health care and insurance information. In reference to billing purposes and the patients visit, this intake process is the very first step.
Establishing financial responsibility and validating insurance coverages is a key step to a successful billing process. Utilizing modern computer software and electronic health records can make the patient intake process more efficient. All of these steps are critical to successfully running a healthcare practice. The intake process will begin while going through the appointment scheduling process. When scheduling the appointment, the patient, parent, or guardian will be asked a serious of questions to start the billing and registration process.
Information obtained for the initial appointment consists of the patient’s full name, address, date of birth, phone number, the nature of the visit, insurance information, and referral information if applicable. Most medical practices have a preregistration process to check that patients’ healthcare requirements are appropriate for the medical practice and to schedule appointments of the correct length. During the appointment scheduling process, most health care facilities use an appointment scheduling system. These scheduling systems help to simplify the process from automatically sending a reminder to patients to auto sending patient follow ups.
New patients utilizing a PPO or HMO, may need information on their coverage or whether or not your facility or provider is within their network of providers. If a patient chooses a physician within the network, they pay less for services than they would if the physician was outside of the specified network. The intake process is critical to setting the conditions for a successful and efficient patient visit. The next step in the process will be the execution of the scheduled appointment. Upon arrival, and sometimes prior to, the patient is given multiple forms to fill out.
Obtaining an accurate medical history is very important in understanding the patient and potentially the reason for the visit. Because of this, it is important that physicians have access to a patient’s most recent medical history, either by self-admittance or by accessing existing records. The medical history data required ranges from personal medical history, family medical history, social history, and current medications or therapies used. Social history questions usually pertain to personal lifestyles choices such as exercise, smoking and or alcohol use. Patients are also asked to complete patient information forms established by the practice for their documentation and billing standards. Doctors who know a patients’ medical history are more likely to successfully diagnose conditions correctly. The provider must give the patient a copy of their privacy practices, checking the information of the patient to make sure that there has not been any changes, and entering patient information in the practice management program. This data base is where personal information is kept about the provider and the staff it also contains the diagnosis and procedure codes that pertain to each patient to easily reference a patient’s records.
After the data base is finished then the medical billing specialist can start the billing process. For each patient, a new file and new chart with a newly assigned chart number is created and updated so the medical billing specialist can keep the patient’s information up to date and links all of their information that is stored in other databases. The chart number is what identifies that patient for future reference, billing, and continuing care all of which are critical to maintaining a solvent healthcare practice. One step that I do not see mentioned in improving the patient intake process is time management. How long does it take a patient to see the provider once they have gone through scheduling process and upon arrival to the facility? Medical facilities are consumer based so if a patient feels they are not receiving adequate care or are having their time wasted by waiting 2 hours for an appointment they have had scheduled for a month they are less likely to continue utilizing the services provided and/or find someone else to provide those services to their satisfaction.
Based on my personal experiences, not many facilities go out of their way to expedite the process and are vulnerable to patients switching facilities. One convenient way would be to mail out required forms to be filled out so they are ready to process upon arrival and check in. I have spent anywhere from 20-30 minutes trying to gather the appropriate information during what was supposed to be scheduled appointment time. I have seen several facilities encouraging you to arrive early to fill out paperwork but that still ends up wasting time that could have been saved if time management was a priority when they consider their quality and efficiency of patient care (Wojtys & Schley, 2009). In conclusion, effective patient care is a balance of record keeping, intake procedures, conducting appointments and the billing process. Patients who their needs met are likely to continue using providers, while those who have their time wasted and their needs not met, are likely to look elsewhere if they have a choice in where their medical care comes from. Managing healthcare, in our current system and culture is challenging, but rewarding when it is done correctly.
Wojtys, E., & Schley, L. (2009, July). Applying lean techniques to improve the patient scheduling process.
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