3 Reasons to Implement Contactless Patient Intake

Man filling out intake forms on his phone

Contactless patient intake digitizes the workflow that enables patients to check in for scheduled and walk-in visits at veterinary ERs, urgent care clinics, and hospital emergency centers using their own device from their home, their car or any other location.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed patient check-in from a matter of convenience to one of safety.  Safety protocols combined with multiple surges in transmission rates have heightened the need to collect patients’ signatures, demographic information, ID and insurance images via digital devices instead of pre-pandemic norms that often relied on manual, in-person workflows.  In addition to reducing potential virus exposure for both patients and staff, staff need ways to quickly collect this information without relying on phone calls.

As provider settings and veterinary hospitals deal with a rapidly changing healthcare environment, here are three reasons to implement contactless patient intake:

1.     Reduce call volume
2.     See patients faster
3.     Focus staff on more valuable activities

First, what defines “intake?”

Intake encompasses everything that staff need to collect before the visit, including:

·       Appointment book / hold your place in line
·       Visit confirmation / reminders
·       Pre-visit registration
·       In office, lobby, or curbside check-in system
·       Chief complaint / visit reason
·       Demographic information
·       Consent forms
·       ID card capture
·       Insurance card capture
·       e-signature
·       Payment options
·       Payment collection
·       Review of systems

#1: Reduce call volume

Each time a community experiences a surge in COVID-19 rates, its on-demand healthcare settings also see a spike in patient visits.  Typically, call volume spikes as patients call for information about hours, appointment availability, test results and wait times.  However, the largest driver of call volume comes from the need to remotely collect intake information, via phone call.  Each patient typically triggers one to two inbound calls, plus two to three outbound calls.  Each of these calls last five to seven minutes on average, with some urgent care clinics receiving 30 inbound registration calls in the first 10 minutes of the day.

Digital contactless patient intake immediately reduces this call volume by enabling patients to submit all of their intake information from their mobile device or in-office tablet or kiosk.  Many clinics push this process further upstream to have patients complete their intake at home.

One animal hospital eliminated five phone calls per visit.

#2: See patients faster

Picture this: an urgent care clinic opens at 8:00 am and has twenty patients already at the door.  Signage directs them to call the front desk to register.  The clinic staffs two phone lines and can register a patient in five minutes on average.  Guess what time the 20th patient gets registered?  Probably not until almost 9:00 am!  This phenomenon, sometimes dubbed “a line just to get in line,” can add 30% to the average length of staff.

However, contactless patient intake vastly reduces the intake time because it enables almost unlimited simultaneous, parallel registration.  Reimagine the above scenario: twenty patients all start filling in their intake information from their phones.  While some patients will complete it faster than others (depending on whether they have visited before, need to update their insurance, etc.), all 20 will get registered by 8:10 am.  Staff can review, triage, and prioritize all twenty patients.  They can spot the patient presenting with shortness of breath or the dog that ate chocolate immediately.

One urgent care clinic measured 30% shorter throughput times after it implemented contactless patient intake.

#3: Focus staff on more valuable activities

Manual intake consumes front office staff efforts on data entry related activities – verbally getting information from the patient, typing it into the practice management system, scanning insurance cards and then uploading those images, etc.  Additionally, they spend time answering the same set of questions related to managing patients’ expectations, most often around wait times.

By contrast, contactless patient intake removes 80-90% of the data entry.  Staff can re-allocate their time toward more valuable activities such as verifying eligibility insurance, collecting payment, or helping patients with unique circumstances (out-of-towners, out-of-network benefits, etc.).  In addition, contactless intake can include text message updates that give patients answers about why they can expect to wait longer than normal as well as how many patients have signed in ahead of them.

Virtual queuing and automated texts, as part of contactless patient intake, delivers all these benefits without the challenges of posting wait times.

Learn more about how ER Express supports contactless check-in workflows, including at-home and car check-in.

Kaufman Hall reports that the pandemic accelerated demand for more consumer-friendly healthcare services such as mobile check-in.

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