Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, frontline patient registrars have provided critical assistance by scheduling and coordinating care for thousands of hospital patients. While these roles are in high demand, they also require employees to work in high-risk environments—given the frequent face-to-face patient interactions and necessary contact during the exchange of physical items.
To prevent the risk of COVID-19 exposure, reduce the consumption of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and improve the overall patient experience, many hospitals are following in the footsteps of global employers and moving toward telework and more remote options for their patient access and revenue cycle staff. As safety concerns continued to escalate, R1 determined the need to create its own innovative solution that would allow onsite outpatient/walk-in and emergency department (ED) registration staff to safely perform their jobs from a remote location without physical contact.
Over the course of just a few weeks, R1 was able to partner with Ascension Health to deploy a remote registration solution to a majority of Ascension’s high-volume hospitals and transition twenty-five percent of its active patient registrars to a work-from-home or protected on-site (“clean room”) location. This solution provides our clients with a unique competitive advantage and helps patients feel more secure and comfortable when visiting their healthcare provider.
In a complex and dynamic healthcare environment, hospitals and health systems need partners who are committed to identifying financially viable outcomes and staying ahead of trends. Rather than investing solely in new concepts and solutions, this solution delivers innovation by eliminating unnecessary steps, simplifying the remaining steps, moving easy tasks to the patient, and utilizing intelligent automation to introduce highly efficient and effective processes into your integrated electronic health record (EHR) environment. Our revenue cycle management (RCM) technology solves the major challenges our partners are facing – and the Patient Experience (PX) remote registration workflow is a perfect example of our company’s innovation at work.
By building upon our digital self-service platform, R1 created a workflow that enabled remote pre-registration via text, email or phone with a registrar who was working from home or a clean room location. Since R1’s PX platform was already implemented in many Ascension hospitals, the solution was able to be deployed quickly – eliminating working through many time-consuming technical integration requirements.
This new solution helped Ascension hospitals significantly reduce the need for face-to-face interaction and keep patients out of hospital waiting areas, thereby adhering to appropriate social distancing standards. It also helped conserve in-demand personal protective equipment (PPE) for critical clinical needs and reduced potential cross-contamination of shared equipment.
While the platform is allowing many registrars to work from home or protected areas, some still remain on-site to assist patients who require additional assistance. For instance, in the emergency department, registrars are still present to help high acuity patients with the bedside registration process. To protect those who must be on site, several safety protections have been put in place, including plexiglass barriers in registration areas and pre-screening procedures to be used before entry for both patients and associates.
Amid uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and to help ease panic among patients in the hospital setting, it was important to make sure the patient’s first touchpoint with this registration process was stress-free, seamless and straightforward. The solution had to be simple, extremely user-friendly, easy to navigate, and available to everyone.
Using a cloud-based phone queue and location-specific work flow dashboards, registrars can send patients digital communications on demand and remotely share information that patients can access from their mobile devices. Registration associates can perform this work remotely. Having the ability to manage work remotely also provides increased productivity opportunities since a single registrar can now work multiple virtual desks.
Here’s how the process works from a patient perspective:
Step #1: Upon arrival, the patient approaches the check-in/registration area. Simple signage prompts the patient to call an 800-number to speak to registration staff securely from their phone.
Step #2: The patient receives a link via email or text, based on his or her communication preference, to complete the registration process electronically.
Step #3: The patient confirms and updates demographics, provides proof of identification, verifies insurance and signs consent forms to be checked into the visit.
Step #4: When the healthcare provider is ready the patient is alerted and is instructed to proceed to the clinical areas for care.
If a patient does not have a mobile device, they have the option to register via onsite sanitized PX kiosks, PX tablets, or via a hospital supplied sanitized house phone. Disinfecting wipes or hand sanitizer are provided in these instances, and a limited number of registrars are on site to assist patients and complete manual tasks such as providing patients armbands.
While remote registration isn’t entirely new to the industry, what’s unique about this situation is R1’s ability to rapidly innovate and add this workflow to existing technology in such a short span of time. An implementation that would usually take months to execute, was completed in a matter of weeks to address the significant safety concerns and risks at play. This solution has been designed for rapid deployment and required very limited client IT support.
In addition to the implementation, registrars had to be trained not only on how to operate this new solution, but also on how to set up and access the necessary resources to perform their jobs from the new “work from home” or protected working environment. By identifying the right application and engaging the right stakeholders from R1 and Ascension, the team was able to make remote registration happen at a critical time.
This new solution has ensured business continuity and overall safety for Ascension’s hospitals, all while providing a better overall patient experience. For example, the day the PX remote registration solution was launched at St. Thomas Midtown Hospital in Nashville, TN, their president and CEO, was stopped by several patients who complimented him on the new digital registration process.
Remote registration will most likely remain the preferred method after the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to keeping patients and staff safe, implementing a workflow like this demonstrates R1’s commitment to improving both patient and staff experience, establishing the necessary framework for future remote work, helping partners achieve lower costs and greater capacity moving forward. Most of all, this platform is the foundation for many exciting future innovations that are currently in the works.
Tom Lytle is Senior Vice President of Operations, Digital Transformation, and Patient Experience.