By Chris Byers
First impressions are vital in the health care industry.
A person’s initial encounter with your facility can make or break the decision to become your patient. Health care is extremely personal and often invasive, so it’s critical to do whatever you can to put people at ease and lessen their burden — starting with the onboarding process.
Patient onboarding is the process of registering new patients and getting them oriented with your facility. If your onboarding process is clunky and outdated (starting with a clipboard full of confusing, cumbersome paper forms), you’re likely dimming the patient experience and damaging your first impression. If you’re onboarding effectively, new patients should quickly understand that your organization offers convenient, timely and confidential care.
Consider how your patients interact with the world and dispense information in their day-to-day lives. They send text messages in lieu of voice-to-voice communication. They purchase clothes, toys, and even meals, online. They apply for jobs via electronic applications. They take full advantage of the convenience technology provides in every other facet of their life, so why wouldn’t they expect the same from their doctor’s office?
To improve the patient experience at your health facility, start by mastering patient onboarding. Show new patients that you respect their time and privacy by taking the following three steps.
Adopt digital patient onboarding forms
There’s nothing more inefficient than onboarding patients with paper forms. You’re asking people who are likely rushed, stressed or sick to sit in a crowded waiting room and fill out a stack of intake forms. This means their handwriting likely won’t be fully legible, or they’ll inadvertently omit information. Then, someone from your office has to scan the form or manually enter the patient information into your database. The entire process is tedious and error-prone.
Online patient intake forms are a much simpler solution. Allowing patients to complete onboarding forms online, before they ever enter your office, can do wonders for your health facility. Online forms boast higher completion rates with fewer errors and greater security. They drastically reduce the time required for administrative processing. Best of all, you won’t fall behind schedule when the first patient of the day is still filling out onboarding forms 20 minutes into her appointment time.
Your patients benefit, too. They can complete the necessary intake forms on their own time without feeling rushed. And they don’t have to spend extra time in the waiting room filling out paperwork (or waiting because someone else took extra time to fill out the forms). Plus, digital forms can be customized for convenience, which helps to declutter hefty medical forms.
Accept electronic signatures
Obviously, HIPAA compliance is a critical factor in patient onboarding. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 mandates that health care organizations have safeguards in place to protect sensitive patient information. This means health facilities collect plenty of patient signatures.
New patients, in particular, may be asked to sign the following:
• Notice of privacy practices.
• Consent for treatment.
• Consent for release of medical records.
To accelerate the processing of these consent forms, consider accepting electronic signatures. E-signatures promote paperless onboarding, streamlining the process and cutting the necessary time and effort of staff and patients.
Reduce patient flow bottlenecks
Patient flow is the way your facility manages patients from check-in to check-out. If your goal is to have happy patients who feel respected, you must concern yourself with how they move through your organization. The more efficient your flow, the more time you’ll have to focus on care, and the higher your patient satisfaction will be.
Data automation is the key to perfecting patient flow. New patients are typically required to submit a heap of data — basic identifying information, medical history, insurance validation, etc. Routing this information, collected with online forms, to the necessary database allows you to validate insurance and plan treatment before a patient arrives for his appointment. Expediting administrative tasks gets your patients in front of a care provider faster, which sets your office up for a seamless patient flow.
Creating a paperless patient onboarding process can save your facility time and effort and greatly enhances the patient experience.
About the author: Chris Byers is the CEO of Formstack, an Indianapolis-based company offering an online form and data-collection platform. Prior to Formstack, Byers co-founded an international nonprofit that was built via remote relationships among partners in Europe, Africa and the U.S.