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Is your patient access department ready for flu season?

Flu season came early to Australia this year, with more influenza hospitalizations compared to last. And 93% of reported cases were the more dangerous Influenza A strain. If you’re wondering what this has to do with your healthcare organization, the answer is that generally speaking, flu season in the U.S. often mirrors what’s just happened in the southern hemisphere. In short, get ready. The number of cases in Australia has U.S. health officials gearing up for a challenging flu season over the next few months.

Although flu activity is currently low in the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expect this to increase in the coming weeks, particularly as Australia experienced an unusually severe early flu season this year.

For healthcare organizations, this will likely translate into extra demands on staff and services, crowded emergency rooms and higher rates of admission. Your organization most likely already has a robust winter health contingency plan in place. Still, there may be new ways to use data analytics and technology to increase efficiency, so you’re as prepared as possible. Are you ready?

Three ways technology can help providers prepare for flu season

  1. Create a flu-preparedness patient engagement strategy

At this time of year, patients can be exposed to many misconceptions about flu and how to prevent it. A helpful way to make sure your patients are informed about how to protect themselves against illness is to communicate the risks, encourage vaccinations and promote preventative behavior.

Consumer data can help you to deliver personalized messages to patients in a time and format that suits them best, segmenting your patient groups according to risk status. Whether you’re contacting them through their patient portal, email or in-person touchpoints, a tailored approach will create a more reassuring patient experience, while allowing you to target your information campaign to the right people at the right time.

  1. Promote telehealth services

More hospitals and pharmacies are turning to telehealth systems to help manage flu season. Patients can log on to watch information videos and have virtual consultations with physicians without being exposed to germs in the doctor’s office. Reducing the number of patients showing up to access services in-person can help relieve pressure on services, while minimizing the risk of infection spreading. Check in with your telehealth provider to make sure everything is in place to provide your patients with the virtual care and advice they need.

  1. Streamline patient registration

With more patients likely to be coming through the doors, the last thing you need is a time-consuming registration process hindered by lengthy and often unnecessary eligibility checks.

Automating registration, financial clearance and other patient access processes can eliminate many manual tasks, save time and reduce errors so there are fewer denied claims. At such a busy time of year, your patients, staff and bottom line will thank you!

How one Los Angeles hospital streamlined patient registration to manage flu season

 Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital in Los Angeles worked with Experian Health to streamline patient registration and insurance verification. With a high-traffic emergency department and limited front-line staff, manual quality assurance and multiple payer website checks were creating bottlenecks and inaccuracies that took up more time to fix.

Using Coverage Discovery, the hospital was able to improve efficiency in insurance verification, while Registration QA saved time in validating patient and payment information. In addition, eCare NEXT® helped automate workflows and generate data insights for further improvements—integrating seamlessly into the hospital’s existing Cerner® system.

Speaking about the improvement made ahead of last year’s flu season, Lori Westman, patient access manager at MLKCH, said:

“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. This has saved us two to three minutes of our registration time.”

“We average about 300 patients every 24 hours. 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.”

Find out more about how we can help you streamline your Patient Access processes, so your organization is fighting fit for this year’s flu season.