Can HIPAA compliant digital patient intake help your practice margins?

May 28, 2018
809 Views

Can HIPAA compliant digital patient intake help your practice margins?

In short – yes. Digital intake forms software kiosks can help improve your healthcare practice’s dwindling margins. With the latest advancements in cloud-based technologies, these are not only possible but many of these features can be availed at little to no cost per month. The longer-term ROI is tremendous and my advice is to take this under serious consideration today.

Intro to digital forms

Digital forms or online forms technologies have been around for ages. Granted, digital patient intake forms have not been as prevalent as digital forms or online forms.. But even today I find that not all healthcare practices use them..

My mind = boggled…

Over years, I have had the fortune of helping healthcare providers and payers with various practice management and member engagement solutions. I have also started and grown a consulting practice from ground up, faced all the scaling issues, felt margin pressures, handled top and bottom line pressures.. Not so surprisingly, striking similarities in practice management between such varied verticals.

Everyone from Moody’s to Deloitte has reported hospital margins going down YoY. Most hospital and health system CEOs have been seeing the margin pressures and are accounting those (partially) to increased headcount.

Come on, you know that you are seeing the same in your practice as well.

So, when your practice margins are getting slimmer every year, isn’t one way to improve your bottom line is to reduce your expenses?

Sure, if all your increased headcount was billable, you wouldn’t worry about it as much, but you know that’s not the case. Non billable headcount is rising while you are facing cost pressures and the “oh-so-lovely headache of healthcare consumerism” at the same time. Right?

Small changes do help. They might not show up on your balance sheet immediately, but it certainly will help you in tangible and intangible ways.

One of the (many) ways to optimize your healthcare practice operations is to use digital patient intake forms. Whether you use them on a tablet (like iPad or Android tablets) or whether you use a kiosk (the Phreesia kind), digital intake forms are here to help.

OK, let me backup a bit and take it from the top.

What are digital patient intake forms?

A simple google search will give you more than enough results..

Everyone from intakeq, simpleinterakt, touchhealth, medforward, to other providers that don’t necessarily specialize in healthcare (like jotform, formfast etc)… even most EPMs these days have it.

Patient intake forms are pretty much the same as the paper intake forms that your practice has been used to – it’s just online, that’s all.

Just like you and I check in at hotels, airports etc using a self check-in process.. Yup, pretty much the same.

The difference? Well, your staff no longer needs to handle paper forms, no longer do they need to store them securely (you know, that HIPAA thing), no more transferring documentation of patients from intake forms to your EMR.. nada.

Sure, most of you are used to just scanning and uploading a PDF of the patient intake forms to the patient’s record in your EMR.. but there are challenges with such an approach (even though you have been doing it for ages)… I’ll touch on that later in this post.

What do digital patient intake forms look like?

There are so many vendors with this technology, so whoever you choose to go with, will have a different look and feel to it. Net-net is that ultimately, these are a series of forms, that’re online.. That’s it. Think of the new patient registration PDFs that you currently have on your website that your patients have to download/fill out before the visit or the ones that you have in your offices and ask patients to fill out.. These digital patient intake forms are just like those.. With a few major differences.

Here are a few examples of what such forms might look like on mobile…

Pretty much the same information that you capture on your registration forms.. And a few extras.

What benefits can I expect from using digital patient intake forms?

Many, actually…

Patient happiness

You know it very well and are seeing it in your practice everyday. Patients are demanding to be treated as “informed customers” and would happily switch to another provider if their experience is better at another provider.

Personally, I have seen the same change in myself over years. I have talked to MANY friends of mine around the same age (mid 40s). Even they gave me the same response that they would switch providers if they felt their experience was better at this other provider.

Even my 70+ year old mother has the same attitude.. “No matter how good a doctor is, if it takes me half a day of waiting in their reception area just to be seen, I am switching doctors”.

I was recently talking to the CEO of a PT practice and he mentioned to me “There’s ZERO ROI in patient intake forms.. Just timely process”. Frankly, I felt, that was short sighted.

Imagine this situation – A patient calls in to make an appointment, the frontdesk then asks for their contact info (a bit of demographics as well), asks for their insurance info (no idea if that’s accurate or not), set up an appointment..

Now, the patient comes in (unless they cancel or are a no-show), then a patient is spending 15 mins filling out forms at this practice. Then they submit that form to the front desk.

The front desk runs insurance verification and authorization one more time on the spot to avoid future billing issues. The coverage is inadequate.. The patient is told “Sorry, your insurance didn’t go through”.. And the patient has to, now, cover their expenses..

At this point, the patient can choose to walk out or pay out of pocket. Talk about patient experience!

What do you think the patient’s experience is going to be like? What would they say when they walk out of that PT practice?

Regardless, the patient data, consent forms etc are now in a paper form, their insurance card (if any) and their ID proof are scanned and the PDF is attached to the patient record (which was created partially when the patient walked in).

The patient now goes to see the PA and thereafter, the doctor. The doctor reviews the patient demographics, clinical data (in PDF format), history, social history etc .. all in real time, in front of the patient. The EPM, at that point, can’t quite help with any advanced technologies as the patient data is in that PDF, in hand written (sometimes hard to read) notes.

The consult happens and the patient is on their way.

Now imagine this scenario.. A patient wants to make an appointment and visits the practice’s website to make an appointment, is presented with an available time slot and makes an appointment with their contact details (same thing that the frontdesk does when a patient calls in).

Or, let’s say that the patient calls in to make an appointment and is greeted with an option to press “1” to make an appointment. The patient does so and after being given a few available appointment dates/times, is asked for their contact information to confirm the appointment (the cell phone number that every frontdesk asks for).

As soon as the appointment is made, the patient is sent an SMS with the link to a patient intake form. The patient has the option to fill out that form at their leisure. This form can collect ALL required information up front, have all patient consent forms signed up front. This can also handle insurance authorizations right up front – before the patient even steps into the office!

Should there be challenges with patient’s insurance coverage, the patient can cancel their appointment or make alternate arrangements with the practice right there.. No more surprises for either the patient or your practice when they are at your office.

Imagine a situation where the patient has, for whatever reason, not filled out these forms up front and visits the practice. They can simply be given a tablet with these patient intake forms pre-loaded to fill out while they are sitting in the waiting area. No more illegible handwriting, no more scanning, patient information is synced to the EHR and is available for review immediately.

What’s more? you’re going to love this… the intake process can even collect copays before hand. Not only that, during this process, you can also have the patient opt in for direct payments for balance dues.

Patient satisfaction – solved.

Staff Productivity

This is arguably the area where the largest gains from patient intake form implementation will be found.

Staff at all levels in nearly every medical practice are overburdened with work; this is no different for front desk staff.

They must be able to answer phones, check-in patients, process forms, etc. Migrating a significant proportion of patient check-ins to digital/online form frees up quite a bit of the front desk staff’s time to engage in more value-added activities.

For example, instead of having to check in self-sufficient patients, staff can spend time with complicated patients that may need assistance, or they can reduce the hold times that patients currently have when calling for assistance or appointment scheduling.

If it can be automated at an affordable price, it typically makes economic sense to do so; with digital patient intake forms, the trend is no different. With most digital intake form software, there is a degree of customization that can easily occur.

For example, established patients with certain diagnoses could be guided through certain forms to complete and new patients can be guided through a different set of forms. These are items that are easy for overburdened front desk staff to miss, and if they are pushed to an MA or nurse in an exam room, it interrupts the flow of other patients through the practice; handling these at check-in keeps the patient flow streamlined and reduces the chance for errors to occur. Increasingly, check-in kiosks also can link this information to discrete data in the patient’s record.

Another example, if the patient completes a PHQ2/9 online, that data can then populate the correct section of the EMR; if the patient corrects their demographic information in the kiosk, it can, likewise, correct the practice management system.

One of the biggest challenges and source of inaccurate clinical data & billing errors stems from the fact that healthcare practice staff are never clinically trained.

So, the $12-$15/hr staff that you have on board, running your practice; have them perform other more personalized tasks instead of inputting data from the intake forms to your EMR/EPM.

Actually prepare for the patient’s appointment

Sure, you might be an experienced provider and don’t need to prepare for a patient’s appointment. AMA has a slew of articles about how to improve your practice by investing in pre-visit planning.

If you want to reap the benefits of improved communication with patients, engage in pre-visit planning. Patient intake forms (digital and automated) are only one of those sources of efficiencies.

Considering the benefits of streamlined scheduling of appointments and enhanced care team efficiency during a patient’s current visit? Consider optimizing your practice with digital patient intake forms.. BTW, patient intake forms and revisit forms can be used (automated or not) between visits and during the next patient visit.

Think of it this way – actually preparing for a patient’s appointment not only supports better management of patient care but also contributes directly to patient satisfaction (happiness). That in itself, contributes to higher patient ratings and referrals (and you know those are worth their weight in gold).

Depending on patient’s responses to their intake forms, should you need pre-visit lab tests ordered, you can communicate with the patient about the same.

We all know how burdened and burnt out you are with documentation. The more you automate with small tools like digital patient intake forms, the less time you spend on doing what you don’t like – documentation!

As value based care payments take hold (Unlike traditional fee-for-service care models that link payment to the number and type of individual services utilized), your income will at least partially be linked to patients’ health outcomes and/or quality of care.

CMS has already implemented payment programs to cut physician rates and you already know that several commercial payers have followed suit. Why not be prepared to transition to this model? You are going to need a team based approach..

While digital patient intake forms are not going to solve all your problems nor make your practice a superstar in one day – they are a start.

Validating patient’s insurance information & identity

Some patient intake form software can also validate a patient’s insurance information before they step into your practice. Not only can these software validate insurance information at the time the appointment is made by the patient – they can also run a sanity check on the day before or day of the visit.

READ
7 Key Factors to Consider When Choosing a Family Dentist

Many billing problems occur due to inconsistencies between plans you and the patient participate in. Digital intake form software platforms can not only validate the insurance information but can also check into a patient’s eligibility.

Any time prior authorizations are required, your care team can be alerted about the same. The patient can also be automatically kept in the loop to ensure that all such prerequisites are taken care of, before the visit itself.

Even patient identities can be verified online by these software platforms. Nowadays, with all the available cloud based technologies and *APIs*, patient identity verification is really not that big a deal.

It’s very simple for software platforms to do these things for you. As an example, these patient intake platforms can easily scan the photo IDs of patients and verify them in real time. The software can also take pictures/scan the insurance IDs, read the data on those cards and verify insurance eligibility in real time.. All the various headaches your frontdesk has (and you incur salary overheads for) are taken care of.

So, use these technologies and techniques to verify and screen your patients, verify their insurance eligibility, do prior authorizations as needed and rid yourself of these manual processes.

Imagine what this does for your billing department and how it contributes to your revenue cycle management processes !

Treat the new millennial patient with confidence

Hopefully you know by now that 80 million millennials will make up over 25% of the population you will be treating (at least, in the US). These millennials? They are going to be looking for their own healthcare providers as they exit their parents’ insurance.

Studies have shown that these millennials account for about $200 billion in annual buying power. Are you planning on tapping that demographic?

You know well that getting new patients in the door is the first and biggest hurdle. These millennials are ALL health conscious.. Much more than their predecessors used to be or ever will be.

These millennials are also 100% digital natives and digitally savvy.

Are you prepared to serve them? Sure, you have kids around that age – do you see the big difference between these millennials and the current population that you are treating?

Again, patient intake forms in digital or in kiosk forms are not the end all and be all.. But they are a step in the right direction.

These millennials? They have zero patience. Don’t expect them to wait in your reception area for 30 mins, filling out forms. They live in the “now”, freely share information and define the very basis of patient consumerism.

Again, be prepared.

These folks live their lives online, do everything online, are always connected, research you well before you get the call (there’s more to serving millennials than patient intake forms) and expect a digitally seamless patient experience – much like their digitally native lives.

They expect to fill out forms by simply using their social profiles or their browser or phone history – don’t expect them to be typing all that information by hand on your intake forms.

Collecting copays and balances

Probably the most important part of patient intake software platforms (some have these, some don’t) are the ability to directly impact your invoicing and collections abilities.

Nowadays, it is not difficult for software platforms to be able to collect payments up front and also to collect remaining balances with patient’s approvals.

You are already used to these technologies in your everyday life.. Aren’t you? You pay for things online. With a click of a button or on a pre-set agreement, you pay your past dues online, without the vendor having to chase you down for collecting payments.

Why aren’t you using the same techniques with your patients? They are all used to paying for services online via a credit card or debit card or paypal etc.

You can ! These digital patient intake software platforms can help – use them.

It’s as simple as collecting a patient’s credit card or preferred payment method online during the patient intake process, having them pay their copay before you see them (you know your notices of “payment is due at time of service”? This is an easy way to ensure that you really get paid – for sure).

You could even reduce no-shows and ensure that patients come in for their time slot by making them pay their copay before they step in the door.

In my IT consulting practice, I ensure that clients pay their dues before we start working on their product/project. I ensure that they pay a deposit before we allocate time and resources towards their project.

Why? Because this way, they have skin in the game as well. They don’t want to lose the deposit amount and will surely “show up” on the project start date.

Use the same techniques in your practice as well. You are running a business, not a charity.

Now, for the matter of balance due payments.. It’s very simple as well. During the patient intake process, while you collect the credit card or debit card or bank information from patients, you simply have to get patients to agree that this same payment method would be used for paying balance dues.

That’s it. Let patients opt-in for this process and you are done. Half your billing and payment collection headaches are taken care of.

It’s not hard for these patient intake software platforms to give you all these abilities.

Help your bottom line

Let’s face it. We’re all looking at the bottom line. Sure, medicine is a vocation or mission; nevertheless, without a margin there’s no mission, so it is important, even if it is uncomfortable sometimes to discuss, how something will benefit the bottom line.

Many kiosk products perform insurance verifications and handle the collection of copays and balances. Building these processes into the start of the patient visit streamlines patient flow in and out of the practice, and it also creates the scenario where the patient is paying their required copay prior to the start of the visit.

For additional information on how to look at building a point-of-service collection process to increase a practice’s financial health, click here.

Security

This has always been a pain in the rear-end for you. Keeping up with HIPAA, PIPEDA, PHI and all associated technical stuff is not why you went into medical practice, did you?

That’s the job of IT folks that are well versed with the latest regulations. Let them handle it while you do what you love doing – taking care of patients.

With the latest advancements in cloud technologies, you can really get a LOT for free with vendors like Amazon, Microsoft etc as they compete for your business. But how to leverage the cloud and how to be secure in the cloud? Let the experts handle it.

Afraid of the data being “in the cloud”? Don’t be. There are more chances of data breach within your practice with your limited IT personnel than there is “in the cloud”. Just make sure you let IT security pros handle these for you.

Why should you have to worry about PCI compliance, HIPAA compliance etc? That’s what the techie folks are for.

Wondering about how to be HIPAA secure in the cloud? Or how to make sure you are not at the risk of being fined?

Well, that’s precisely why these IT companies or IT pros are supposed to sign BAA and BIA with you. (Business associate agreement and business indemnification agreement)

Would my patients want to use these digital patient intake forms?

There is, when the topic of kiosks or digital patient intake forms in medical clinics comes up, at least some degree of apprehension by providers.

Will patients dislike them? Will they be used, or will it end up as another unused technological gadget in my office?

These are good questions that may not always have the same answer for every practice. For example, a pediatric practice or a practice with an adult population that skews younger will most certainly have a high degree of usage if the implementation is well planned and appropriate marketing of the digital patient intake process or kiosks to patients occurs.

Another great use case would be urgent care clinics; these clinics pride themselves on volume, speed, and good customer service. Anything that can speed up registration, keep staff more productive, and possibly increase patient throughput is especially critical to an urgent care’s bottom line.

Additionally, it wouldn’t be fair to assume that just because a practice’s demographics skew older that it is unable to successfully implement kiosks.

Indeed, senior citizens have become adept at using various forms of technology over the years and, in face, are growing proportion of the site’s such as Facebook’s growing user base.

It is also important to note that the desire for self-service and self-control over healthcare is increasing. This is likely both generational and accounted for by changes in the healthcare sector.

With the former, younger generations are increasingly accustomed to self-service utility like tools. Think of the growth of self-service banking, ride sharing applications such as Uber or Lyft, and delivery meal prep services such as Blue Apron.

That generational shift in the economy along with the growth, as previously mentioned, of digital intake or kiosks elsewhere in the economy creates a culture accustomed to and expectant of self-service.

Regarding the latter point on the general changes in the healthcare sector, patients, as they are increasingly expected to take responsibility for more their utilization via high deductible plans and increased copays, are becoming more demanding with their expectations for a minimal level of customer service.

Patients, as consumers, are going to be increasingly frustrated with and resistant to repeatedly filling out large amounts of forms.

In fact, some research has found that a not insignificant number of patients have even at least partly based their decision on what provider to seek care from based on the availability of self-service options.

The same research found that a significant number of patients were interested in self-service options.

Healthcare, while it is certainly a unique sector of the economy, has not inoculated itself from the increasing desire for consumers to exercise increased control over the services they receive.

Digital intake platforms and kiosks, like well-maintained and well-used patient portals, will likely be incorporated with the trend towards more consumer health devices in overall patient care management in the future.

Should I use a kiosk then? What’s the difference?

Good question.. Kiosks – they are ubiquitous. You use them to check-in for flights at airports, to pay for your groceries, to pay a parking fee at a garage or parking lot, and even some states have them at DMVs or Secretary of State’s offices.

Increasingly, in addition to those locations, kiosks are beginning to appear at a rapid pace in medical clinics. Remember your sigh of relief when you finally were able to check in by yourself at the airports without having in one long line to do so?

Same concept here.

Kiosks give you all the abilities that a digital patient intake software platform does – with some added benefits that come along with having the hardware in your offices.

Self check-in kiosks in medical clinics allow patients to perform such tasks as entering/updating demographics, perform insurance verifications, pay copays and balances, and discretely enter self-generated clinical data from a tablet or custom kiosk device.

Just like most of the patient intake platforms that run on a tablet (iOS, Android – whichever you choose)

This data is then entered into the practice management system or EMR. Typically, this information is either performed by clerical staff or on paper by the patient (and then possibly scanned and then transcribed into the practice management system or EMR).

But, just like with digital patient intake software, kiosks would do the same for you.

Sure, many providers and practice manager to begin asking themselves whether the devices will work their clinic.

Will it free up staff to be more productive? Will improve the patient experience? Will it finally allow practices to streamline discrete data collection from the patient and relieve staff from having to abstract scanned files into the practice management system or EMR.

Or, rather, will it irritate patients and cause them to seek care elsewhere?

Same questions and doubts as with digital patient intake forms and platforms..

Same responses as I have already covered..

What are the various options available (kiosks or digital intake form software)?

MANY..

A simple google search will give you many, many options. If you want an objective analysis, head on over to capterra or G2crowd.. These folks have already done comprehensive analysis of various software options available and also have reviews from actual users of the software.

READ
How To Adopt The Right Mobile App Technology To Improve Healthcare

What features can I expect or look for?

Again, Capterra has a really nice list created for you – they evaluate various vendors for these features and have done all the legwork for you already.

You can start with as few or as many of these features. Just make sure that whichever vendor you go with, allows you to grow as your business needs grow.

Forms Automation Features

Approval Process Control

  • At a minimum, you are going to need some kind of approval processes within your business (i.e not everyone can publish forms willy nilly)

Archiving & Retention

  • Think about it.. You are going to need to be able to have different versions of forms (and retain the history of the same). As time progresses, you are going to need to update your forms.. But at the same time, your previous patients have already filled out older versions of the same form. You are going to need to retain those earlier versions as well.

Collaboration

  • Creating these forms is not really the job of one person. Usually you need to be able to collaborate between various offices to ensure that each practice/specialty’s needs are satisfied. Although not 100% required, this really does help larger, multi speciality practices.

Document Indexing

  • This is a life savior. When you first begin, you will probably not think about why you would want to search for specific words/terms within all the documents you have. But guess what, you are going to need to, in the feature. Make sure that your vendor allows this.

Drag & Drop

  • You are not a designer, nor are your employees designers. You shouldn’t have to spend a whole lot of time trying to design forms. These days, drag and drop images, logos, form elements etc are not hard to do. Your vendor should support that.

Full Text Search

  • As mentioned above, this becomes a very important feature.. To be able to type anything and search across all the documents (full text search is what the geeks call it)

Remote Document Access

  • Let’s face it, you are not going to sit in front of your computer all the time. Neither are your employees. If documents need to be updated, having the ability to access your documents anytime, anywhere from home or from work becomes really important. Make sure that security is adhered to and your vendor’s implementation of remote document access should make your life easier.

Rules-Based Workflow

  • Really nice to have for larger practices.

Text Editing

  • This is a must have from every vendor. Simple text editing should be available by default. Just like wordpress.

Version Control

  • Without version control, your life is going to be hellish. Make sure that your vendor supports version control of these documents.

eSignature support

  • This has become so easy to do these days that you really cannot avoid it. Simply have your patients sign via their fingers or even initial documents (these are legally acceptable as signatures)

Medical Practice Management Features

You may or may not want tight integration of these digital patient intake forms with your medical practice management suite. While this becomes a more comprehensive list of features to have, they really enhance seamless workflows and reduction in operational overhead (i.e. lesser FTEs required to run your practice)

Claims Management

  • It’s not a deal breaker, but to be able to handle patient intake tied to DME Claim Status Inquiry Status (CSI) – Same & Similar really helps your claims workflow. You will be able to tell if your patient has been issued a same or similar equipment by someone else.

E-Prescribing

  • The more data that you have about a patient, the better. Could you pull up a patient’s past medications and fill history from community pharmacies? Yup, you can and you can also import this data straight into a patient record.

EMR / EHR

  • The more tightly your forms and intake process are integrated with your EMR/EHR, the more savings you incur.

HIPAA Compliant

  • This, of course, is a non negotiable item and almost every vendor that plays in this space would support HIPAA compliance (they should give you a BAA and BIA as well)

Insurance Eligibility Verification

  • This is a life savior. Being able to perform insurance eligibility verification not only saves you time, future billing and collections headaches but it also saves your patient future headaches.

Multi-Office

  • If you are a multi office practice or hospital, this is what separates the kids from the big boys. Your patient intake software should be able to handle multiple offices, specialties and multiple locations.

Multi-Physician

  • This one’s a given as most larger practices/hospitals have needs of multiple physicians that are required.

Patient Billing

  • The minute an existing patient checks in, your patient intake software should have the ability to view their balance dues and anything outstanding should be paid up front. Why in the world would you service a patient that has balances overdue? Sure, you love your work, but you are not a charity, are you? Being able to bill a patient and collect from them at the earliest only helps you run your business better.

Patient Portal

  • If the digital intake software ties into your patient portal or at least behaves as a minimalistic patient portal, that’s even better. One challenge that has been discovered with patient portals is that not many people like using it. It’s not just due to the fact that it’s yet another userid, password to remember.. But also due to the fact that it presents only partial information. So, the easier your vendor makes things, the better it is for your practice

Patient Records

  • Goes without saying that the ability of your digital patient intake to tie directly into patient records, the better it is for your business. Why have another standalone, bolt on system where you have to manually transfer data to/from?

Patient Registration

  • Most patient intake systems would already do this as this is the main purpose of these software.

Patient Scheduling

  • This is where your business really starts to shine further and differentiate itself from others. Try to choose a vendor that also ties in patient scheduling with digital intakes. Think of the time your office spends in scheduling patients. The calls, the phone tag, the back/forth and the wasted cycles that are part of patient scheduling can all be a thing of the past with the right vendor. Make sure you opt for this capability.

Physician Scheduling

  • Technically, it is not very difficult for your patient intake software to also be able to handle physician scheduling based on what the patient is coming in for. However, as I have noticed while talking to many practice managers, most doctors are very picky about who they want to see, when they want to see them, what they want to do with their schedules etc.

Convert your existing forms

  • Most vendors these days would offer you to convert your existing forms for free (it’s in their best interests). Do avail this facility and choose a vendor that offers it to you. While it isn’t incredibly hard to convert your existing forms, why not avail this facility while you have it?

Customization

  • Make sure that your digital intake form platform allows for customization of your forms (while maintaining versions and historical changes/audit trails). You are going to need this capability to run your business as usual (lord knows it is not that easy to keep having to retrain your front office personnel).

Integrate with your website

  • Personally, I have always found this to be incredibly important.. To be able to collect patient information right from the website itself. But that’s also because I take a very marketing driven approach to my consulting business. Have people make their appointment online, fill out their data online as much as possible – once the patient leaves your website, they tend to forget getting these done.

Use your own branding

  • Any digital intake form/kiosk vendor worth their salt is going to allow you to use your own branding (unless you opted for a free version). This is entirely your choice, but personally, I advocate using your own branding wherever possible.

Flexible question formats

  • You are going to need your kiosk or digital intake software to allow you to create questions in any format that you want. Almost like you do it in your current PDF/word document. Most vendors do allow you to do this and this part really differentiates the kids from the big boys. Make sure your vendor supports it.

Mobile-friendly

  • I strongly believe (much like the rest of the research shows) that most patients are living in a mobile world these days and that this trend will only continue further. While creation of the forms need to be desktop friendly (since you are not going to do this every day), the patients should have the forms in a mobile friendly format. In other words, you want to capture a patient’s cell phone information and you want to have a relationship with their mobile devices. That only strengthens your relationship with them and allows you to optimize your business even further (plus helps you with care management). Make sure your vendor has mobile friendly forms or supports mobile apps.

Include reminder opt-in in your form

  • Again, following my marketing driven business mindset, I strongly recommend this feature (and to make this part and parcel of your practice). I suggest that patients be given an option to opt-out of a reminder service and that by default all patients using this service should opt-in while they are filling out the form.

Customize reminder message

  • Most patients will not fill out all the information at the same time and won’t complete the form immediately. What your software needs to do is to gently remind them (nudge them if you will) to fill out the remaining information before they come in to visit you. I have seen some vendors sending out generic reminder messages. The ability to customize reminder messages is crucial (in my book).

SMS, voice or email

  • These are not hard to do these days (at all). Services like AWS, Azure, Twilio etc allow you to easily send reminders and notifications via SMS, voice or email. Use them ! Your vendor should support these options. Personally, I feel that these options make the difference between patients conforming to your business’ processes vs not.

Sync with your Google calendar

  • Come on… in these busy days, even you use a google calendar (or some other calendar) on your phone. Don’t you? Don’t you hate it when you get a registration confirmation and cannot easily sync that event to your phone’s calendar? Think about it – it isn’t very hard to do (from a software POV). Your vendor should support these.

Recurring Appointments

  • Depending on the kind of practice you run, this becomes quite important. Recurring appointments means recurring revenues and that means a full schedule. Never miss this opportunity! I have seen several vendors not being able to support recurring appointments – maybe they don’t see the value in being able to set up multiple bookings up front? Push for this (again, depending on your business).

Custom cancellation policy

  • You should be able to customize your cancellation policy and keep it updated at all times. Your patients should be able to view the cancellation policy that your business provides at all times.

Welcome Email Sender

  • This is, a patient engagement feature that I push for and more importantly, a very important part of your patient relationship management process. Think about it – whenever you sign up for any service online, don’t you get a welcome email that tells you about their company, their business, what you can achieve by using their service, how to use their service etc? Every industry knows that this is a crucial step in creating a relationship with their customer. Embrace it.

Track Registration Progress

  • As I mentioned before, not every patient is going to sit through 20 pages of your patient registration packet in one shot. They are going to fill out parts of that questionnaire and keep coming back to it.. If you remind them to. Your kiosk or digital intake software should really be doing the heavy lifting of tracking registration progress and be sending out reminders to patient to fill out the rest.

Other Features

I believe that patient intake should really allow for further patient engagement and care management as well, but I am going to reserve my opinions for another post. A few things that I consider important are as below (You can find a similar list on Capterra as well)

  • Care Planning
  • Messaging
  • Mobile Access
  • Patient Education
  • Personal Health Record
  • Progress Tracking
  • Self Management
  • Bill Payment
  • Lab Results
  • Prescription Renewals
  • Secure Messaging
  • Video Consultations
  • EHR-Agnostic
  • Care Plans
  • Care Summaries

The post first appeared on Nisotech.