Technology is everywhere in your urgent care. X-ray machines, lab equipment, monitoring devices—the list of technology that clinicians use is diverse, and it evolves as new methods are introduced. Together with progression in medical knowledge, technology is a powerful tool for ensuring fast, more accurate diagnoses and treatments.
The same holds true for your Practice Management software. While technology isn’t a complete solution without human oversight, the use of healthcare advancements like Practice Management software is improved by following basic standards. To that end, software best practices help promote proper use—for the benefit of both clinic staff and patients.
In part one of this two-part series, let’s examine some best practices for using your urgent care’s Practice Management (PM) software during the patient check-in process.
Define Registration Steps before Using Software
Mapping out registration steps before using software will save you time when using a PM. From greeting the patient, entering or finding them in the system, completing forms and insurance, to adding patients to the queue—it’s important to clearly define steps for staff. Defining steps outside the software for patient scenarios will help you easily, and more efficiently, translate steps into a digital PM workflow.
For example, you may have fewer steps for a returning patient than a new patient, so be clear what steps can be eliminated for each visit type. Also, define how staff should handle walk-in visits versus scheduled visits. Will specific personnel handle each visit type? Will you collect payment up front for fee-for-service patients? If you have online check-in, how will patients be organized in the queue—and will you have policies in place for calling back patients for missing registration info?
Confirm Patient Form Needs & Avoid Entering Duplicate Patients
You have standard forms for patient privacy and HIPAA compliance. But will you have HIE forms for patients to sign? And can each form be signed digitally so you can eliminate paper files in your office? Do you have a scan process for collecting driver’s license and insurance card info? Urgent care prides itself on speed of patient treatment, but make sure registration is collecting the correct patient information up front.
Always review and update pertinent patient information, like insurance and guarantor information. Regularly assess patient forms and info needs, and as regulation or processes that need patient consent are added, import those forms into your system. To avoid double entry of a patient in the PM, have a clear system look-up to pull up past patient information. For example, search date of birth and full name before adding a patient to your PM. Duplicate patients cause confusion and more work merging data, so have thorough search steps in place.
Verify Patient Insurance Immediately
Avoid calling patients after the visit to collect payment by verifying insurance upon check-in. While some PMs, like DocuTAP, include a real-time insurance verification button in the patient insurance screen, not all PMs have this time-saving option. If your PM doesn’t have this option, make sure staff calls or checks the insurance payer’s portal during (or if possible, before) the patient visit to make sure insurance is valid.
Verifying insurance up front is important for your clinic to collect both the correct co-pay and/or charge the correct amount if the patient responsibility is higher—especially if insurance is expired, incorrect, or non-existent. Collecting money from patients is much easier while they are physically in the clinic; so collect money upfront instead of risking patient responsibility going to collections.
Have Clear Front-desk Staff Roles & Commit to a Training Program
Ensure successful registration practices in your PM by defining which people will collect what information in the software. If you have a larger clinic, or your reception process is unique, define roles and always have backup personnel trained. An updated and defined training program for new hires is also an important software best practice for ensuring proper PM use.
Whether this is hands-on learning with practice patients, shadow training with a co-worker, or a designated training course, the more you teach your staff up front, the better your intake process will be. Traditionally, turnover happens more with front-desk positions, so a defined PM training program ensures knowledge gaps don’t happen when employees leave.
Set Up Employer Service Protocols
Offer occupational medicine or workers’ compensation services at your urgent care? If your software has configurable protocols for employer info, create unique protocols with procedures to be performed, special instructions, and forms—so you can quickly auto-populate employer info and requirements.
Having employer requirements in your PM will not only save you time by eliminating manual entry, but it will also streamline communication between the front desk and clinical staff. If your PM has these options, take the time to set up data so you don’t have to add employer data every time or stress about remembering what details each employer requires.
Standardize Verbiage for Messages to Clinical Staff
If your PM and EMR are integrated and have in-system messaging, set ground rules for staff correspondence. Nothing is more frustrating than miscommunication. In an urgent care, it could be potentially dangerous and, at the least, it could cost staff valuable time in trying to decipher needs. Give front-desk staff clear guidelines and a verbiage standard for sending messages to clinicians. Offer a mini-dictionary of acceptable verbiage for alerts and messages.
Also, outline acceptable use policies for what messages can be used for—and what type of information should be relayed in them versus a face-to-face conversation. Examples of clarifying digital communication could include tying messages to specific patient charts or implementing an acceptable use of text abbreviations. Messages sent from the PM, in addition to patient-specific instructions, can also include helpful reminders for providers—like alerts for drug seekers, allergy reminders, and immunization statuses.
Stay tuned for part two in this series when we’ll look at best practices for using a Practice Manager during patient discharge and check-out.
What best practices does your clinic use while checking in patients using a Practice Manager? Share your tips in the comments.