This time last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and hospitals across the country weren’t quite ready for the flu season, which turned out to be the deadliest in 40 years. The flu and complications arising from it resulted in the deaths of more than 80,000 people.
Hospitals felt the brunt of the 2017-2018 epidemic early. Hospital and medical center staffs were forced to work overtime, setting up triage tents and treating flu patients in recovery rooms. Alabama declared a state of emergency, and doctors in California had to treat patients in hallways.
Experts predict a milder flu season this year, partly due to an updated flu vaccine that protects against H3N2, which was the severe strain that dominated last year’s flu season. While it’s hopeful that this year’s flu season will be better, it’s always a busy time for hospitals and providers, so they should be sure they’re using the most efficient healthcare IT solutions to streamline their workflow.
Greater efficiency is key
When it comes to efficiency, hospitals should take a cue from Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in Los Angeles, which collaborated with Experian Health to streamline patient registration and insurance verification.
Before the collaboration, MLKCH had to consult websites and make phone calls to confirm a patient’s insurance eligibility, which was time-consuming. The hospital has a large Medicaid and managed care population, which means employees had to consult both a state website and a health plan website.
The hospital also had a high-traffic emergency department and limited front-line staff to handle the incoming flow of patients. Additionally, employees performed manual quality assurance, which is a time-consuming task.
Understanding its challenges, Experian Health was able to help the hospital streamline its system to improve efficiency in insurance verification through Coverage Discovery. It also helped the hospital improve patient registration with Registration QA, which has improved data quality and patient registration accuracy.
Since MLKCH integrated Coverage Discovery and Registration QA into Cerner, it has saved precious time when it comes to validating patient and payment information.
“We have a lot of returning patients to our emergency room, so once we check that patient in, their eligibility automatically runs in the background and our staff doesn’t have to go into another website to check their eligibility,” said Lori Westman, patient access manager at MLKCH. “This has saved us two to three minutes of our registration time.”
“We average about 300 patients every 24 hours,” she continued. “Heading into flu season, they’re expecting to hit a 400-per-day volume, so the fact that we can take off two to three minutes at least on half of our registrations is going to speed up the work for the team that much faster, to have a turnaround time that much better for more patients to come through.”
Managing the season
Only 42 percent of Americans got a flu vaccine last year — painfully shy of the CDC’s 70 percent target. Misconceptions and fears about the vaccination and its effectiveness can keep people from getting it, which only increases the spread of the flu.
Flu season is always going to be a busy time for healthcare providers. But finding ways to manage staff and resources and work more efficiently is going to help hospitals and other facilities better manage the busy season.
Learn more about Experian Health’s Patient Access solutions.