April 13, 2020

COVID-19 Resources for Patient Access

Freeman Jenkins

A belated Happy Patient Access Week to all the Patient Access professionals working on the front lines of our healthcare system! Your work to facilitate patient communications, provide safe and efficient access to your organizations, and drive the patient experience is more vital than ever. After all, ‘it all begins with patient access.’

In this post we highlight resources and best practices related to the impact of COVID-19 on patient access operations. We’ll also be publishing another post highlighting where we see things heading when the initial surge of COVID-19 subsides.

  • Our blog post from last week has recommendations and best practices to consider across the revenue cycle in dealing with COVID-19, including many items related to patient access. You can read all the details here.
  • Last week, the National Association of Healthcare Access Management (NAHAM) hosted a town hall featuring several patient access leaders focusing on the operational impacts of COVID-19. We encourage you to watch the free webinar yourself or read their transcribed Q&A, but also wanted to share a few key takeaways and our recommendations with our readership.

 

    • Limiting Exposure
      • The organizations on the panel were all at different points in their response to the pandemic, but all were moving towards a model that featured several best practices:
        • No/light touch registrations
        • Relaxing of document and insurance card collection
        • Enlisting clinical staff to complete some pieces of registration
        • Implementing telework wherever possible 
    • Documenting Consent
      • Most organizations have moved to verbal consent for all COVID-19 related services. In order to ensure this process works smoothly, work with your legal, clinical, and billing teams to ensure their workflow is adjusted to properly document and process the patient’s account. For example:
        • Work with your legal and risk teams to ensure verbal consent is approved and communicated; many organizations are documenting verbal consent due to national emergency
        • Clinicians may need to have an easy way to document consent in their documentation
        • Billing and Claim edits may need to be updated to reflect the new workflow and requirements 
    • Managing a Remote Workforce
      • Many organizations have a large portion of their patient access operations working from home. For organizations that didn’t have an existing work from home program in place, this can create a host of challenges for monitoring productivity and managing staff. Thankfully for many Patient Access leaders managing staff in disparate areas across their organizations, transitioning to remote work can be done with some creativity. Here are some keys:
        • Proper communication and reporting are key elements to keep your operations moving.
        • Work closely with your IT team to ensure there are enough Citrix licenses and appropriate hardware for staff.
        • Effective productivity reporting is essential. For insight into how Epic clients can monitor their staff remotely, check out our productivity reporting blog post.
        • Leverage daily electronic huddle boards to focus staff around common metrics and work. Ensure your boards have key metrics from your EHR, phone system, and time reporting system. Think critically about what metrics you need to prioritize in today’s new environment (schedule adherence, phone not ready time, pre-registration times and accuracy, etc.)
    • Staffing and Managing Changing Volumes
      • Most organizations have cancelled or delayed most of their elective services. This is creating financial challenges for many organizations, but also creates a new landscape for patient access operations. We’ll have more detail on where we think things are headed, but here are some key things to be thinking about now:
      • Surge workflows and staffing
        • It was all hands-on deck to implement new workflows and technology quickly to handle the influx of COVID-19 patients. Ensuring those changes are well documented and creating a plan for what happens to those changes post surge will allow you to transition safely back to elective services.
        • Ensure you are tracking all labor and equipment expenditures related to COVID-19 so you can take advantage of any future government reimbursement
        • While some staff are busier than ever, the reduced demand for elective services means downtime for many others. If you are fortunate enough to have bandwidth and resources, take the opportunity to look critically at your operation and optimize. There are likely things you’ve done out of necessity that will be valuable to keep longer term (telehealth, more efficient workflows, accountability structures, etc.), and now may be an opportunity to look critically at your to do list.
        • Focus on working down workqueues – registration errors, claim edits, denials. If you have staff with bandwidth, use this time to get your WQs close to zero. Payers want, and need, to pay right now, so they are more open to supporting this type of effort.
      • Volumes and staffing needs post surge
          • When social distancing requirements are relaxed, there is going to be a large surge in demand for elective services. Understanding how large that backlog will be and ensuring you have the plan and staff to accommodate all the demand for all the corresponding patient access services can be a key area of focus right now.

 

 

Thank you for all the work you are doing to mobilize your teams and take care of patients. We’ll continue to publish relevant content as the pandemic evolves. If you have questions, please contact Matt Perron at The Wilshire Group. Whether or not you are a current client, we have experts available to assist your team with COVID-19 response efforts and questions.

Freeman Jenkins

Manager, Patient Access

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