Patient Access Staff: The Gatekeepers to the Patient Experience

December 12, 2013 by Merideth Wilson

We encounter gatekeepers every day, ranging from TSA agents at the airport and call-center operators for online retailers to office receptionists and hotel front desk staff. Gatekeepers have a tough job as they manage access, filter information, provide advice and maintain order. Their attitude and actions dramatically impact our experience as consumers.

The healthcare industry must shift from a patient focus to a consumer focus — and it all starts with patient access. Patient access staff act as the frontline — the gatekeepers — as they gather critical patient information at the start of the patient visit and set the stage for the remainder of the encounter. They’re moving beyond simply performing routine registration tasks and collecting co-payments to engaging in a holistic approach to patient interactions. As a result, these critical staff members can create and facilitate compassionate financial discussions while handling revenue-related activities such as pre-service collections.

It’s no small task, nor one that can be done without data and analytics. For example, staff can use tools driven by data and analytics to verify patient identity, which prevents fraud and identity theft and results in more accurate registration. Moreover, after reviewing insurance eligibility, patient access staff can leverage data and analytics to create accurate patient payment estimates, review data to assess a patient’s ability to pay and evaluate financial options.

The bottom line impact creates a positive environment for financial discussions and improves collections on the front end, while reducing the likelihood of collections calls and bad debt on the back end. Patients benefit in that they gain a sense of confidence — and oftentimes relief — because they know where they stand financially and can focus their energy and attention on getting well.

The time is right to establish patient access staff as gatekeepers of the patient experience by equipping them with knowledge and tools to empower them to improve the revenue stream and patient satisfaction.