Patient Access: Rush’s Front Door

By Kevin W. Harper

The Patient Access Department is often identified as an institution’s front door. Patient Access (or Registration/Admitting) can be the first one to encounter the patient whether in a face-to-face interview or over the telephone. When a call is made to preregister the patient, that initial interaction is a key component of the patient’s experience at Rush University Medical Center. As Rush is undergoing a dramatic transformation, Patient Access has been undergoing a similar transformation.

In the last year, Vyridian’s (physician billing) pre-registration department was consolidated with that of the Medical Center’s. The result is one, pre-visit team responsible for the preregistration duties of more than 200 clinical areas representing hospital, Provider Based Clinic (PBC), and non-PBC services. With the recent addition of the University Ophthalmology Associates, we will begin to preregister private physician practices as well. Last year, the pre-visit team facilitated the registration of 774,027 visits while on 311,920 telephone calls with an average response time of nine seconds.

As important as that first contact is in preregistration, nothing replaces the face-to-face encounter. There the reassuring smile and comforting words help make the patient feel a bit more relaxed in what may be a strange and often frightening environment.

Rush has many front doors, and Patient Access may encounter the patient in eight different areas from the Professional Building lab to the Emergency Department to the Admitting Department. And in all those areas, as part of the Rush team, our role is not only to gather patient demographics and insurance information for billing but more important to convey to the patient that they’ve just walked through the door of a friend’s house, someone who cares and will try to make their visit a little more comfortable.

Our role doesn’t stop with registration; our financial counselors assist patients with price estimates, financial assistance applications and payment plans, and even assist them with their public aid applications.

Patient satisfaction, whether expressed through an appreciative “thank you” or the Press Ganey patient surveys, is our top priority. For the last four quarters, the question ranked highest by inpatients has been, “speed of the admission process.” Patient Access also has scored very well on “courtesy of person admitting” and “helpfulness of registration person,” consistently scoring in the 90th percentile of combined “good” and “very good” responses.

It seems our transformation never ends — with the completion of the East Tower, there will be a few new front doors to attend to. In the East Tower, our goal will be to help patients realize that although they’ve just walked into a state-of-the-art, nationally recognized health care facility, where excellent care is provided with the latest medical technology, they’re still walking through a friend’s door.

Kevin W. Harper, MA, MBA, MHRM, CHAM, is director of patient access, Health Care Finance, at Rush University Medical Center.

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