The Benefits of Pre-Registration

Vol. 14 •Issue 7 • Page 44
The Benefits of Pre-Registration

Pre-registration is a critical component in any health care environment. If your organization faces any of the following situations, developing an accurate and efficient pre-registration process may be the solution:

•The front desk is understaffed and overloaded.

•Patient statements frequently contain errors, especially with regard to insurance information.

•Patients consistently telephone the office to complain that follow-up appointments were not scheduled correctly—or were not scheduled at all.

•Test result call-backs fall through the cracks.

•Accounts are not updated prior to patient checkout, frustrating charge-entry personnel.

The Basics of Pre-Registration

With highly trained, customer service-oriented individuals, a pre-registration unit can prevent most of the errors that occur during a patient’s check-in process. Pre-registration units can accommodate basic tasks, such as telephoning new patients and confirming their demographic and insurance information. In addition, they can confirm appointments, update patient information to include demographics and insurance, and answer any other questions about physicians or the practice.

Depending on the number of pre-registration staff employed and the use of system automation, a “mix or match” of tasking can be performed in a quality manner.

If your practice performs charge entry at checkout or through a batch process, a pre-registration unit will provide a positive impact on the services being posted, greatly reducing the number of claim rejections on the back end.

Keep in mind, however, that pre-registration “experts” must be highly trained in registration activities with a deep understanding of current carriers in their locale. They also must maintain a helpful attitude and be dedicated to ensuring patient satisfaction. Offering initial comprehensive and ongoing training to these representatives (including all aspects of patient billing) will have a positive impact on patient satisfaction.

Operational Impact

How should an effective pre-registration unit be set up? The unit should be located away from patient and clinical personnel so that the staff can focus on obtaining accurate information without the threat of interruption. The unit should be staffed to facilitate telephone calls during the day and early evening hours. The number and size of the physician offices using pre-registration services will determine the number of personnel needed to staff it.

What benefits will this unit produce? Checking in patients, confirming appointments, updating demographic and insurance information, and answering telephone calls will be less of a burden; therefore, you will experience less turnover of front desk personnel.

Other positive effects should include improved accounts receivable balances (with the collection of co-pays being less of a strenuous and costly activity), happier patients (who have all their questions answered prior to leaving the practice), follow-up appointments being made in a timely manner, and lab requests and referrals being offered upon checkout. Charts can even be updated with the new demographic and insurance information before the patient’s visit allowing clinical staff to accurately schedule additional referral visits or inpatient/outpatient services.

Ensuring that all pre-registration tasks are being performed without error is an issue for the practice manager. System-generated audit trail reports have to be monitored closely, especially for new employees. Ongoing random audits and comparison checks in the patient’s chart, such as copies of insurance cards, should be made to ensure that the pre-registration staff is entering insurance and demographic data into the system correctly. Many software applications allow built-in integrity checking through the use of required fields and fixed-format fields. They can also systematically support the timing of updates. In addition, reports utilizing this information provide an effective monitoring tool.

Brenda Algiere is a senior consultant with Beacon Partners. She has more than 14 years of health care experience including implementations within hospital and physician settings, re-engineering of practice and billing operations, and the development of centralized business offices.