The patient intake process plays a significant role in the overall patient flow and directly affects patient satisfaction and ultimately your revenue.

Inefficient flows, notoriously long intake forms, and paper-based registration processes create a perfect storm for a frustrating patient experience.

When COVID-19 kicked in, digital adoption accelerated. For the first time, digital health tools, including those related to the patient intake process, became necessities rather than simple enhancements.

According to Accenture’s 2020 Digital Health Consumer Survey, 39% of health consumers believe a good digital interaction has a major influence on the patient experience, with 26% even willing to switch providers for high-quality digital services.

Digital tools are now helping facilities become more efficient and better able to focus on the patient experience rather than processing patient questionnaires and managing patient check-ins.

What is Patient Intake?

Patient intake is an umbrella term for the process by which healthcare providers collect demographic, social, clinical, or other important information from new or returning patients before they enter the provider’s system of care.

The key information collected may include health insurance, consent forms, payments, medical history, and other information needed for the operational, financial, and clinical success of the healthcare facility.

HIPAA regulations also require consent and re-verification of patient information.

The data collected is used throughout the patient journey from clinical decision-making to care coordination, and from patient payments to medical claims.

Steps in the Patient Intake Process

The traditional patient intake process is very hands-on, paperwork heavy, and time-consuming for both the patient and office staff.

Unfortunately, most healthcare providers that have failed to modernize their processes are still using this method today.

Here’s what the traditional patient intake process looks like:

  1. The patient calls to schedule or book an appointment.
  2. The scheduler or receptionist takes the patient through the scheduling process over the phone. Before the scheduled appointment, the patient will also be asked a series of questions to review their medical history and to do other pre-op processes.
  3. At the time of appointment, the patient will have to do necessary paperwork in the waiting room.
    • New Patients: Fill up a number of intake forms that ask for several pieces of information such as demographics, personal and family medical history, insurance coverage, and more. The receptionist will also need to scan or copy the patient’s insurance card.
    • Returning Patients: Review and update key pieces of information such as address, contact information, insurance coverage, and consent forms if already outdated.
  1. The patient will also need to review and sign relevant consent forms.
  2. The receptionist transcribes all the information on the forms into the facility’s EHR system.

Aside from collecting key information, office staff also need to do the other tasks involved in the patient intake process:

  • Verifying insurance eligibility and benefits
  • Collecting copays and balances
  • Collecting signed consent forms
  • Setting up payment plans or payment methods

Ways to Improve the Patient Intake Process

Healthcare consumers are used to digital experiences and are looking for better, more convenient experiences across all industries.

Here are some ways to optimize the patient intake process at your facility:

  • Leverage Digital Tools (Online Intake Forms & Patient Access Portals)
    • Pre-admission patient portals and online intake forms give patients the ability to complete the intake process when it’s most convenient for them using their own phones or computers at home.
    • Digital patient intake solutions might also include online scheduling, electronic registration forms, online payment, and digital communication. Using these tools, patients can head straight into their appointment instead of filling out lengthy paperwork or answering in-person assessments.
    • By simply clicking the link in a text message or email and following through the process online, patients can fill out their health histories and assessments at their convenience.
    • For staff, online portals also let them access a patient’s billing information, medical records, and appointment schedules.
  • Improve Patient Communication
    • More important than needed paperwork or requirements is patient communication, which is at the heart of the intake process.
    • Patients may become frustrated at needing to answer the same questions repeatedly to different people in your facility. When patients are also not greeted, they might wonder if they’ve gone to the wrong appointment schedule.
    • Train staff to keep patients informed about which steps they need to take next and how long they’ll be waiting.
    • Sending information about upcoming appointments, follow-up instructions, or questionnaires via automated text, email, or phone call is also a quick and easy way of relaying much needed information to patients.
  • Online Patient Scheduling
    • In the era of healthcare consumerism, patients demand online scheduling or the ability to make an appointment on their own time.
    • Self-scheduling empowers patients, so they are highly likely to show up for their appointments rather than become costly no-shows.
    • Online patient scheduling works 24/7 and saves your staff time and boosts patient engagement. Your staff will have more time to focus on other important matters than answering and returning phone calls regarding scheduling.

Benefits of Better Patient Intake Process

Improving the patient intake process can bring tremendous benefits to your healthcare facility.

Increased efficiency in the patient intake process not only boosts patient and staff satisfaction, it also directly improves your bottom line.

  • Improve Patient & Staff Satisfaction
    • As you meet modern-day healthcare consumers’ expectations for digital convenience, it will boost patient satisfaction.
    • Better intake process means patients can experience the conveniences of decreased waiting times, scheduling appointments online, flexible payment options, etc.
    • For staff, this means being able to access necessary data without time-consuming hand-offs, lesser phone calls from appointment scheduling, and more time for other tasks.
  • Improve Accuracy & Operational Efficiency
    • Better patient intake processes affect all other areas of the healthcare journey which relies on accurate patient information.
    • With online intake forms and patient access portals, your facility eliminates manual data entry and human error from paper forms as patient data gets automatically updated into the EHR.
    • Patients will also be able to update their information at any time, even if they do not have a scheduled visit.
  • Increase Revenue
    • Patient intake stands at the beginning of the revenue cycle process. Any improvements in the patient intake process will increase the overall productivity and efficiency of your practice.
    • This means you can schedule more patients each day due to increased efficiency. Increased patient satisfaction would also result in more patient referrals and more revenue for your facility.

Better patient intake reduces errors that travel through to the back end, thereby preventing inaccurate claims and achieving faster reimbursements.

Contact us to learn more about how Mnet Health can help you improve your patient intake process to boost patient satisfaction and increase your revenues.