Maximizing efficiency at patient access has helped Goshen Health improve wait times, increase point of service collections, and add value to the overall patient experience.

Sitting in a hospital waiting room isn’t a good use of anyone’s time.

“I haven’t met a patient yet that comes to the hospital to actually be in patient access,” says Sue Plank, director of patient access for the nonprofit, community-owned Goshen Health, a health system based in Goshen, Indiana, with 35 locations across four counties. “They are here for another service. So, any time that they spend in patient access is not [a] value-add to them.”

By now it’s common knowledge that a bad revenue cycle experience can sour an otherwise positive healthcare encounter. But revenue cycles should aim higher than providing patients with an experience that’s not “bad” and instead provide one that’s easy, efficient, and makes the most of patients’ time.

That’s why Goshen Health has taken steps to centralize, digitize, and streamline the patient access process to make it easier and quicker for patients to get to their ultimate destination: Their healthcare appointments.

They’ve done it by adding tools in a phased approach over several months: eligibility verification and payment estimating in August 2020; a payment processor in December 2020; a patient flow tracker in February 2021; appointment reminders and COVID screening in March 2021; and online patient intake in April 2021.

Here are three reasons revenue cycles should make the most of patients’ time and aim to add value to their overall healthcare experience.

1. Wait times will ‘plummet’

Goshen Health had already taken steps to centralize patient registration and streamline the financial clearance processes by scheduling patient labs, but they were missing a way to digitally communicate with patients prior to their arrival. The pandemic made that need even greater, since they wanted to avoid having patients in the waiting room for too long.

Deploying tools from AccuReg helped to open that two-way communication.

“Our initial goal was simply to be able to engage digitally to be able to register [patients] in advance, but it’s given us way more than that,” Plank says. For instance, patients can do things like send pictures of their photo ID and insurance cards and digitally sign consent forms.

“That gives us the key elements that we need in order to financially clear them,” Plank says.

Patients can choose which digital offerings—including appointment reminders, COVID screening, electronic check-in, and patient intake—they want to engage with. Since implementing it in April, for instance, the online patient intake portion of the tool has about a 40% utilization rate. Utilization of appointment reminders and COVID screening has reached about 65%.

All of this has resulted in combined wait and registration times that have dropped significantly, from between 23 and 30 minutes down to roughly seven minutes.

“Our patients love it,” Planks says. “It is such a stark difference from what it was before.”

2. Point-of-service collections will increase

Goshen Health didn’t change any policies, procedures, or expectations regarding point-of-service collections, yet they’re up 45% from its 2019 benchmark.

The reason why is simple: They interfaced a payment processor into the patient access tools that registration staff use.

Previously, registration staffers had to log into two separate systems for patient payments: One to take the payment and another to document it. Now, employees see a button to “pay now” on the same screen as the payment estimate information, which launches them directly into a payment processor. This allows them to collect and automatically electronically document the patient payment.

Seeing the increased collections “honestly was a bit of a surprise,” Plank says. When she asked her colleagues why collections were up, they laughed and said, “because it’s so easy.”

“My learning from that, as a director, is give the right tools to your colleagues,” she says. “And they actually will produce the results.”

3. Better tracking of no-shows

Prior to implementing the patient tracker, the revenue cycle had trouble keeping track of patient no-shows. EHRs, Plank notes, are “built often for the clinical component and so the revenue cycle side doesn’t usually have a lot of bells and whistles.”

Now, the patient tracker gives some patient-flow visibility thanks to engagement tools that allow patients to confirm, cancel, or reschedule their appointments.

“That’s a benefit to us, obviously, because now we don’t have an MRI table sitting empty,” she said. “And that certainly allows us to maximize our revenue.”