How to See More Patients Without Adding or Overworking Staff 

Reading Time: 6 minutes

By Chloe From Clearwave | April 18, 2024

Specialty healthcare practices across the country are struggling to manage rising patient volumes amidst staffing shortages and increasing labor costs. A Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) report found 56% of medical groups report staffing as their biggest productivity roadblock. If any of these situations sound familiar, know you’re not alone: 

  • Difficulty finding competent front desk candidates 
  • Can’t afford to hire additional staff due to increasing minimum wages 
  • Veteran employees taking on additional work, increasing burnout, churn and errors 
  • Patient experience and bottom-line revenue are suffering due to staffing challenges 

It’s becoming increasingly difficult for front desk workers to get existing patients through check-in and ready for their exam. Additionally,  it’s near impossible for practices to take on new patients, without increasing staff or burdens. Long check-in lines and waiting times are becoming the norm rather than the exception, and neither bodes well with changing patient expectations.  

Don’t let staffing challenges and rising labor costs prevent you from taking on new patients. 

Staff Stretched Too Thin Impact Patient Satisfaction & Reviews

Patient satisfaction with their healthcare providers now goes beyond the care they receive to also include their experience with the front desk and in the waiting room.  

Recent industry research found:  

  • 40% of patients report being frustrated with their doctor before their visit due to long in-office wait times. 
  • 79% of patients place importance on timeliness and wait time when deciding to see the same doctor. 
  • 33% of patients have switched providers due to unfriendly staff.

High-growth practices are implementing technology to automate time-consuming administrative processes – enabling them to grow their patient population and boost overall efficiency, without adding more staff. Supporting this, a recent report on the State of Patient Access notes that 40% of providers say staff costs and shortages have been offset by technology improvements. 

By automating administrative tasks, practices can keep up with high patient volumes and better allocate staff to focus on patient care and initiatives that will drive the business – improving employee and patient satisfaction.

Many processes can be digitized and modernized to benefit patients, employees and practices alike. Let’s examine two in particular: automating eligibility and enabling patient self-service registration.  

1. Help Staff Quickly Verify Insurance

Verifying insurance eligibility is a critical part of the patient intake process. Patients want to know they are covered to avoid any surprise bills down the line, and for practices, insurance coverage is key to increasing collections, authorizing services and reducing claim rejections.

Traditionally, front desk workers have been responsible for verifying eligibility and collecting co-pays either by calling a patient prior to their visit and hoping they pick up or by confirming information in front of them when a patient checks in. This manual approach presents a few challenges: 

  • Employees’ time is spent calling insurance companies to check benefits and searching on payer websites to determine patient responsibility. 
  • The insurance verification process can be slow, leaving patients waiting while workers make calls to verify their coverage – increasing check-in and wait times.  
  • Staff may not be able to collect co-pays and deductibles due to uncertainty around what’s owed, leading to lost revenue or refund/credit headaches down the line. 
  • The risk of human error in insurance verification and patient data increases, which can lead to claims rejections. 

In the case of Cape Fear Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, which sees more than 300 patients each day across four locations, front desk workers had to call each patient every month to verify insurance. In this environment, it was difficult for them to verify all patient eligibility prior to care, especially with rising patient volumes. 

The practice modernized their approach to better accommodate their current patient base and scale for growth with Multi-Factor Eligibility™ – a solution that removes the manual element by automating eligibility verification and making it simpler for staff to narrow in on paitents with insurance errors that require their attention. This approach saves hours of staff time and helps practices identify patient coverage and payment information faster in time to collect accurate payments once the patient arrives.

Now, with a real-time eligibility dashboard and automated eligibility check run up to 7 times per patient encounter, Cape Fear had more accurate data and a majority of the work done for them. Using their new eligibility dashboard, staff can see a holistic view of coverage for scheduled patients. Front desk workers can see co-pay amounts and remaining deductibles; plan levels, including primary, secondary and tertiary benefits; alerts when insurance changes or becomes inactive; and flags and notifications identifying discrepancies and errors that need to be resolved prior to patient appointments.  

This combination of multi-factor eligibility verification and comprehensive visibility through a single dashboard, helps Cape Fear solve verification issues fast and capture accurate co-pays at check-in.

On a recent webinar, “How to Increase Patients, Not Payroll,” Amber Brookins, front desk lead at Cape Fear Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, said: “Once we got Clearwave, it helped so much because it does the verifications for us, so we don’t have to call anymore. It lets us know if an insurance is inactive and if a patient has new insurance, which helps speed up our check-in process.”  

Hear her take on the impact of multi-factor eligibility verification.

 

2. Enable Patient Self-Service Registration & Drop Check-in to 2 Minutes or Less

To keep check-in times at bay even with an increasing patient population, Cape Fear Orthopedics and Sports Medicine turned to self-registration. The practice leverages digital self-registration kiosks to streamline in-office check-in and payments and uses pre-check, complete with clinical intake, enabling patients to complete a majority of their forms before they even step into the office.  

During the webinar conversation, Brookins explained that when patients enter a Cape Fear Orthopedics and Sports Medicine location, a greeter directs them to a Clearwave kiosk. Patients who have been seen within the last 12 months, simply need to enter their name and date of birth, sign their consent form and then they can get seen right away. Patients who haven’t been to the kiosk within a year, will also be asked to update their demographic and insurance information. 

On the same webinar, Alison Henion, Marketing Representative and Physician Liaison at Cape Fear Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, discussed how their self-service kiosks are customizable, enabling check-in to be tailored based on each patient’s appointment type. This customization has enabled the practice to create a seamless and fast check-in process. You may find value in their approach to customizing new and existing patient workflows. 

Proven patient self-registration software can unlock benefits across your practice, including: 

  • 2-minute check-in times: Whether patients pre-check ahead of time or take advantage of in-office kiosks, patient check-in and wait times are drastically reduced.  
  • Improved data capture for cleaner claims: Self-registration replaces manual data entry by front office workers, instead putting patients in control of their data, which improves accuracy. With cleaner data, Clearwave customers have seen a 94% drop in their claims rejection rate, subsequently minimizing resubmission costs and increasing realized revenue per patient.  
  • Increased collections prior to care: Self-service registration presents the patient with co-pays and outstanding balances at check-in, prompting payment at the point of service – without staff intervention. With this capability, Clearwave customers have seen in-office collections increase by 112%, on average. 
  • Reduce the burden on front-office staff: Self-service registration takes the administrative burden off front desk workers, increasing staff efficiency to better manage rising patient volumes. Clearwave customers on average drop staff registration tasks by 87%. 

Cape Fear Orthopedics boasts an average check-in time of just over two minutes. In this video clip, Henion explained just how much of a difference this makes for patients and the practice. 

 

Leverage the Support Behind Your Technology

It’s important to note that technology is only as good as the vendor behind it. A practice can implement a solution, but if it’s not working properly, staff are unsure how to use it or the pratice isn’t using all the capabilities available to them, then the organization won’t get the most value out of their investment. 

Healthcare practices will grow faster with a vendor partner who CAREs about their outcomes, challenges and patients and provides unrivaled implementation, service and support. On the webinar, “How to Increase Patients, Not Payroll,” Michael Patterson, IT manager at Cape Fear Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, described how vendor support impacts success. 

 

Achieving Growth Despite Constraints

Selecting technology that automates administrative healthcare processes makes it possible to accommodate an increase in patient volume without adding personnel or additional work for veteran employees. In addition, technology provides practice-wide benefits – from happy patients and employees, to optimized processes, to increased patient throughput that drives revenue and overall practice growth. 

Watch the full webinar on, How to Increase Patients, Not Payroll, to see how you can amplify patients and profits, without burdening your existing staff. 

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