Best Practices to Optimize Your Patient Registration Process

June 9, 2021 | By Wendy Bartlett


The patient registration process needs to be as simple as possible for everyone involved, from patients to office staff and providers. The rise of healthcare consumerism means that care access has expanded to big-box retail stores like CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart, further accelerating the need for a seamless registration experience. 

Today, following patient registration best practices is an absolute must for healthcare organizations to avoid losing out to competitors.

However, the unfortunate reality is that registration and check-in is often considered the most tedious stage of the patient journey. It also happens to be at the beginning of the care experience—which means that getting it right is critical to retain existing patients and maintain a positive reputation to attract new ones.

So what does the ideal patient registration look like? It’s fast, easy, and runs smoothly, without any roadblocks getting in the way. To make that happen, healthcare practices need to follow patient registration best practices and invest in the right digital solutions that simplify practice workflows, improve data collection, and increase operational efficiency.

In this article, learn everything you need to know about optimizing your patient registration process for greater profitability and a top-notch patient experience.

Common Patient Registration Mishaps Your Practice Should Avoid

Along with lengthy wait times, which are a significant frustration for most patients, here are some of the patient registration mistakes your healthcare practice should avoid.

Lack of Insurance Verification

Unfortunately, the insurance verification step is often skipped. Failure to verify insurance coverage or to obtain any necessary prior authorizations can lead to surprise medical bills for patients (no thank you!) and duplicate work for your registration staff. Plus, not verifying insurance coverage early on can hinder your profitability if patients can’t cover their responsibility for a given procedure.

Patient Privacy Concerns

Some practices run the risk of potential Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) violations due to patient privacy concerns. For example, certain registration processes like calling out a patient’s full name, keeping sign-in sheets visible, and failing to properly train office staff can all lead to concerns regarding private information. Physical setups that don’t ensure privacy during discussions about medical history, past treatments, existing conditions, and current medications are also cause for concern. 

Inaccurate Patient Details

Whether it’s due to an outdated address, a misspelled name, an incorrect date of birth, or the wrong insurance policy information, getting patient details wrong during registration can cause a whole slew of problems for your practice. For instance, incorrect or missing insurance policy information—such as the wrong responsible party—can lead to claim rejections if a health plan can’t verify coverage. It can also introduce potential safety issues if a patient’s record contains the wrong information.

Optimizing Registration to Boost Profits and the Patient Experience

Optimizing your patient registration process with best practices can improve your profitability while also enhancing the patient experience. When your practice’s patient registration process is easy and efficient, both your practice and your patients benefit. Improving your patient registration workflow will help boost your profits by improving revenue collection, cost transparency, and process inefficiencies. 

On top of that, you can significantly enhance the registration process for your patients, which is often the first encounter they have with your practice. Making a good first impression can reduce unnecessary churn, improve patient satisfaction, and increase referral rates. A positive patient experience begins during intake and can truly set the tone for the entire care journey. 

Patient pre-registration is a great way to streamline the process and ensure each person is clear on their financial responsibility. A streamlined registration process supported by modern technology also reduces patient wait times, which is ideal for both your patients and your team members. Not only does this help create a more favorable, meaningful experience, but also saves practice staff time and energy that can be better spent delivering quality care.

6 Steps to Evaluate Your Practice’s Patient Registration Process Steps

Evaluating your own patient registration processes to see how they measure up? Here are some steps you can take to assess  and improve your workflow.

1. Assess your practice’s waiting room.

First, take a look at  your waiting room: Do you have a backlog? Experience significant delays? If so, this is a surefire indication that your patient registration and check-in processes need work. As we mentioned above, lengthy wait times are a significant frustration for most patients, and avoiding them is essential to prevent patients from leaving your practice for another healthcare organization.

As a matter of fact, a survey on the impact of long wait times on patient satisfaction revealed that 84 percent of respondents stated a reasonable wait time was somewhat or very important for a quality experience. What’s more, 30 percent have left appointments because their wait time was too burdensome.

If you think your wait times are less than ideal—the average across specialties and geographic locations is 18 minutes—you may want to rethink some of your existing patient registration processes. By taking advantage of modern healthcare technology, you can automate time-consuming tasks and avoid waiting room backlogs that can cause patients to jump ship.

2. Review your existing digital capabilities.

Speaking of technology, the next step to evaluating your registration process is to assess your digital capabilities. Can your patients register online, or are they still filling out paper forms at the office? Digital registration using a modern solution offers patients a convenient way to fill out forms prior to their visit and schedule appointments from their preferred device, on their own time.

That’s why a number of healthcare practices are adopting paperless registration and using technology to streamline processes. Not only does this make it more efficient for staff, but it also significantly decreases wait times for patients. (Plus, in the COVID-19 era, nobody wants to fill out paper forms with a germ-covered clipboard and pen!)

3. Reflect on your patient registration workflow.

Next, evaluate your practice’s existing workflows, and pinpoint potential areas for improvement. Taking advantage of healthcare technology to automate manual tasks is the first step, but it’s not the only one—you also need to make smart use of that technology to reap the full rewards. Each of your platforms should be integrated and talking to each other to ensure information flows freely between them.

The alternative is manually entering patient-collected data into an electronic health record (EHR), which is redundant and prone to errors. In other words, it’s not enough to have an EHR solution. Instead, consider digitizing your patient registration and intake processes, and with your integrated system, sync all collected data with your EHR. When digital solutions work together seamlessly, information is synced with ease—and the registration process becomes dynamic.

4. Identify hang-ups in the patient registration process.

Another way to improve your patient registration process is to identify any hang-ups in your current workflow. Can you easily access patient data via your system, or does it take time to find? Do you spend a lot of time on the phone for insurance verification eligibility? Does your practice have many no-shows that throw off your process?

By identifying any challenges and potential barriers to offering a solid, efficient registration process, you can improve the experience for patients and prevent them from being dissatisfied and potentially seeking healthcare elsewhere.

5. Train staff on patient registration best practices.

Adequate, comprehensive training on patient registration best practices is absolutely essential to keep things running smoothly. By thoroughly training your practice staff—and retaining as many employees as possible, for as long as possible—you can improve the overall patient registration process.

Make it a priority to assess your patient registration process steps and change management progress frequently. Evaluating your progress on an ongoing basis can help you stay on top of improvement efforts and optimize your registration workflow for a better, more convenient patient experience.

6. Track and analyze the right registration metrics.

As with any business, tracking and analyzing the right metrics can go a long way when it comes to evaluating your patient registration process. There are certain registration-specific key performance indicators (KPIs) that can glean powerful insights into various steps throughout your practice’s process. 

For example, patient registration KPIs to being tracking and analyzing include: 

  • Point-of-service (POS) collections 
  • Patient pre-registration rate 
  • Insurance verification rate
  • Service authorization rate
  • Total cycle time per patient

Using Technology to Transform Your Patient Registration Workflows

Healthcare consumers today not only want, but also expect, access to self-service digital tools for patient registration and check-in, appointment scheduling, and beyond. Embracing (and making the best possible use of) technology will make it easy for your staff to follow best practices and for your patients to complete necessary check-in and registration forms electronically, from the comfort of their own home, on their own time.

There are many other benefits to digitizing the patient intake process and using technology to streamline workflows, improve processes, and offer the best care experience possible for patients. 

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