By Rhonda Quast
February 02, 2017
In the time it takes you to finish reading this paragraph, a patient forms an opinion about a health care organization. It takes 30 seconds to make a first impression that shapes expectations and sets the tone for the patient/health care organization relationship. If the quick evaluations lead to negative perceptions, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to change their impression. For example, if a patient's first encounter with a health care organization is rushed, the patient perceives the entire organization to be rushed. These impressions are formed at initial contact and provide an ideal time to begin positive relationships and engage patients in quality health outcomes in value-based care.
Patient Access is often where patients have their first experience as they enter health care organizations, either by phone or upon arrival. Patient Access can set the stage for the next "first impression" at the end of visits as they assist with scheduling follow-up appointments and referrals. Each point of contact sets the stage for a patient's perception. This is one of the many reasons that organizations have found value in using their Patient Access department for both customer service and to begin introducing the patient to value-based care.
Patient Access and Chronic Disease Management
In value-based care, chronic disease management becomes a focus for organizations. This includes preventative screening for chronic diseases to avoid acute episodes of care and timely follow-up with diagnosed patients. If your Patient Access team initiates these important conversations with patients at the first point of contact, it assures the patient that the entire organization is committed to improving their quality of life and health.
Organizations can accomplish improved care perception by providing Patient Access the tools and organizational support necessary to identify opportunities for follow-up care appointments and preventive services at every patient contact. Utilizing your organization's electronic health record (EHR) capabilities to alert the Patient Access department about overdue care needs is an important first step. Once you have determined your EHR capabilities, you will want to have your clinical teams and Patient Access department analyze current workflows and identify opportunities to incorporate patient engagement conversations and chronic disease appointment workflows.
Patient Access and Satisfaction Surveys
Many value-based care programs utilize data from patient satisfaction surveys to determine satisfaction and engagement. The goal of these surveys is to understand perceptions of care received, timeliness of care, and confidence in health care organizations to provide optimal care. The first impression is important for sparking positive patient experiences.
By embedding your Patient Access team in the patient journey, you provide patients with seamless experiences from all team members committed to a consistent goal. For the Patient Access team, this can include transparency in communication, like providing patients expected timelines for return phone calls and explaining the "why" behind department procedures. By understanding how care time relates to appointment scheduling, analyzing third-next available appointment metrics for your clinicians helps you learn the timeliness of appointment availability.
Utilizing this data, organizations can identify barriers in clinician templates that may be decreasing availability for patients to gain access to care. This allows Patient Access to offer greater flexibility when scheduling appointments while increasing patient satisfaction.
Remember to Focus on the First Impression
Health care organizations are working diligently to support the move to value-based care. The changes in reimbursement models are providing a catalyst to shift how organizations view the spectrum of care and patient outcomes. Including your Patient Access team in your organization's initiatives provides limitless opportunities to maximize your first point of contact with patients and set the stage for the entire patient experience within your organization.
First impressions are important. Providing patients with an understanding of your organization's commitment to their health from the beginning builds trust and increases patient engagement. Your Patient Access team provides the first interaction. They are creating lasting impressions with every patient that walks through your door, so now is the time to engage your Patient Access team to maximize on these encounters.