Healthcare leaders are well aware that patient intake is the crucial first step towards improving patient access and delivering exceptional patient experience. This pivotal process not only sets the tone for the entire patient-provider relationship but also plays a vital role in ensuring organizational efficiency and delivering high-quality healthcare services.
However, relying on traditional patient intake methods often leads to a myriad of challenges that hinder the seamless delivery of care. Problems such as prolonged wait times, increased staff workload, errors and inaccuracies, and a lack of personalized care have plagued healthcare organizations and have caused patient churn for far too long.
To address these challenges, medical groups are increasingly turning to software that can digitize the patient intake process to offer personalized care, minimize wait times, and alleviate administrative work overload. By harnessing the power of technology, medical groups can pave the way for a more efficient, patient-centric approach that enhances both the quality of care and the overall patient experience.
To learn how software can improve patient intake, it’s essential to understand the key aspects of the process and the differences between the traditional and digital approach.
What is patient intake?
Patient intake is the process through which healthcare facilities gather essential information from patients, including their personal, medical, and social details, insurance and payment information, and necessary consent forms. The first interaction of the patient with the healthcare organization, a seamless patient intake process is key to the operational, financial, and clinical success of a medical group.
This initial touchpoint allows medical groups to establish expectations for a streamlined and hassle-free patient access. Smooth, efficient, and user-friendly patient intake sets your organization apart from the competition and guarantees patient satisfaction and administrative efficiency.
Traditional vs. digital patient intake
Digitizing the patient intake process is becoming a must for any healthcare organization that wants to stay relevant amid growing competition and ever-increasing patient expectations.
Approximately 57% of patients state that industries other than healthcare offer a more personalized experience across different channels, according to a 2021 research by Redpoint Global. Furthermore, around 80% of patients say they prefer to communicate with their healthcare providers digitally.
An interesting finding from another Redpoint Global survey from 2020 indicates that over half of the patients would prefer to endure other typically frustrating experiences, such as waiting at the DMV or jury duty, rather than dealing with a health insurance issue.
One case study from Goshen Health illustrates the reasons behind those worrying statistics. Before implementing its remote patient intake technology, the Indiana-based medical organization faced a significant challenge in patient waiting times, Sue Plank, Goshen’s director of patient access, told PatientEngagementHIT.
Patients arriving for their appointments had to endure a lengthy wait, typically ranging from 25 to 30 minutes. This frustrating situation negatively impacted the overall patient experience, with many patients leaving the facility before they were even seen.
Several factors contributed to this problem, with one major issue being the extensive paperwork that patients were required to complete upon arrival. The time taken to fill out these forms resulted in a delay between their arrival and the actual consultation with their healthcare provider.
Following the implementation of a digital patient intake process, Goshen Health began to see significant improvements. The once burdensome 30-minute wait time experienced by patients was reduced to less than ten minutes, Plank said. The digital check-in allowed patients to complete all necessary paperwork beforehand, eliminating the need to wait for administrative staff to process it upon arrival at the facility. This streamlined approach not only expedited the patient intake process but also enhanced overall efficiency and satisfaction for both patients and staff.
The pitfalls of the traditional patient intake process
As the example with Goshen Health illustrates, the switch from traditional to digital patient intake can lead to dramatic time savings. That’s because the traditional approach often comes with serious drawbacks for healthcare organizations.
Traditional patient intake methods typically involve paper-based forms and manual data entry, which can be time-consuming and error-prone. Healthcare staff must spend valuable time deciphering handwriting, verifying insurance information, and inputting data into electronic health records (EHRs) or other systems.
Let’s take a look at each of the negative effects of a traditional patient intake approach in more detail:
- Patient dissatisfaction and frustration: Lengthy paper-based forms and manual data entry can lead to long wait times for patients, which can be frustrating and dissatisfying. Patients may feel that their time is being wasted, leading to a negative perception of the healthcare organization.
- Errors and inaccuracies: Manual data entry and handwritten forms are prone to errors and inaccuracies, leading to potential medical errors and compromised patient safety.
- Data duplication and redundancy: Traditional methods often require patients to provide the same information repeatedly, leading to duplication of data entry. This not only wastes time but can also result in inconsistent or conflicting information in the patient’s records.
- Delayed access to patient information: Manual data entry and paper-based forms can slow down the process of updating patient information in electronic health records (EHRs) or other systems. This delay in accessing accurate patient information can hinder healthcare providers’ ability to make informed decisions promptly.
- Increased administrative burden: Healthcare providers and staff have to deal with the administrative burden of managing and organizing paper-based forms, which can be time-consuming and take away valuable time from patient care.
- Higher costs: Traditional patient intake methods often require the involvement of administrative staff or healthcare professionals to handle paperwork, data entry, and other manual tasks. Hiring and paying these personnel can add up to significant labor costs. Additionally, errors and inefficiencies may lead to costly medical mistakes and legal repercussions.
- Privacy and security concerns: Paper-based forms may pose privacy and security risks, as physical documents can be lost, misplaced, or accessed by unauthorized individuals. This can compromise patient confidentiality and lead to potential data breaches.
- Lack of real-time data: Traditional methods may not provide real-time access to patient information, making it challenging for healthcare providers to access the most up-to-date medical history and treatment plans.
The benefits of a digital patient intake process
Modern patient intake solutions leverage technology to streamline the process and enhance patient access. Digital intake platforms allow patients to provide their information online before their appointment, reducing waiting room times and enhancing convenience. These platforms can also offer personalized forms that dynamically adjust based on a patient’s responses, ensuring that only relevant questions are asked, leading to a more efficient intake process.
Furthermore, modern patient intake solutions often integrate with EHRs and other healthcare systems, enabling seamless data transfer and reducing the administrative burden on healthcare staff. By automating data entry and verification, staff can focus more on patient care and less on administrative tasks.
Let’s take a look at the main benefits of the digital patient intake method:
- Faster and more efficient process: Digital intake forms can be completed online before the patient’s appointment, reducing wait times and streamlining the check-in process. This efficiency leads to a better patient experience and improves the overall flow of the healthcare facility.
- Reduced errors and improved data accuracy: With digital patient intake, patients enter their information directly into the system, eliminating the need for manual data entry and reducing the risk of errors. This leads to more accurate and reliable patient data.
- Real-time access to patient information: Healthcare providers can access patient information in real-time, providing them with up-to-date medical histories, medications, and other relevant data. This enables more informed decision-making and improves the quality of care.
- Enhanced privacy and security: Digital intake forms can be designed with robust security measures to protect patient data, reducing the risk of unauthorized access or data breaches. Encryption and access controls can be implemented to ensure patient confidentiality.
- Time and cost savings: Digital patient intake significantly reduces administrative tasks and paperwork, freeing up staff time to focus on patient care. It also eliminates the need for printing and storing physical forms, leading to cost savings in the long run.
- Personalization and standardization: Digital intake forms can be personalized to gather specific information based on the patient’s condition or visit type. Moreover, standardization of the data collection ensures consistency across all patients and visits.
- Integration with Electronic Health Records (EHRs): Digital intake systems can integrate with EHRs and other healthcare software, enabling seamless transfer of patient data. This integration reduces redundant data entry and ensures a comprehensive patient record.
- Patient engagement and education: Digital intake forms can include educational materials, helping patients understand their conditions and treatments better. It also allows patients to update their medical history and preferences, increasing their engagement in their healthcare journey.
- Convenience and improved patient access: Digital intake forms can be accessed remotely, allowing patients to fill out necessary information from the comfort of their homes. This is especially beneficial for telehealth visits and remote consultations.
- Data analysis and insights: Digital patient intake systems can collect and analyze data, providing valuable insights into patient demographics, preferences, and health trends. These analytics can improve healthcare processes and patient outcomes.
The must-have features of robust patient intake software
Choosing software with the right set of capabilities is essential for maximizing the benefits of digital patient intake. With a myriad of solutions available on the market, there are several integral components to look for:
Custom flows for a personalized patient experience
Robust software platforms include custom digital intake forms that gather essential information about each patient’s demographics, physical health, and psychological requirements.
These comprehensive forms delve deep into a patient’s medical history, symptoms, and specific needs, allowing healthcare providers to gain a holistic understanding of the patient’s condition in a streamlined and efficient manner, eliminating the need for repetitive and time-consuming paperwork.
The information then serves as the foundation for personalized treatment plans and ensures that patients are matched with the healthcare professional best suited to address their unique needs.
The patient intake forms can result in a variety of different care flows and patient journeys, depending on your practice’s specific focus and requirements. For example, you can include:
- Personalize-my-care flows, or a set of questions to determine the patient’s specific needs based on their demographical data and other evaluating factors. For example, if you provide mental health services, this flow will allow you to offer dozens of personalized support types based on different mental health diagnoses, symptoms, or patient complaints.
- Eligibility flows, or a set of questions to determine whether a patient might need treatment based on risk factors or to establish whether a patient is eligible to be treated based on specific criteria (e.g., is above 18, has insurance coverage). For example, if you offer depression counseling services, this eligibility flow will allow the user to determine whether they are at risk for depression depending on factors such as recent life events, emotional well-being, or family history.
- Flows that allow for entirely separate patient journeys. For instance, if you operate a mental health medical group, you can incorporate a journey for a patient and a separate journey for a caregiver.
- Rule-based matching flows that match the patient with the most suitable provider. For example, a rule can be set for a first-time appointment with a psychologist and another rule can be set for a follow-up appointment with a psychiatrist.
By leveraging strong digital patient intake flows, healthcare providers can lay the groundwork for a successful patient scheduling process. This method allows for convenient, affordable, and high-quality personalized care. The digitization of patient intake also reduces the risk of errors or missing information, ensuring accurate and comprehensive patient data.
This individualized, patient-centric approach results in a better overall patient experience and fosters trust and confidence in the healthcare provider.
Automated queue management for virtual visits
A reliable patient intake software should incorporate an automated queue management system. This feature helps in organizing and prioritizing incoming patient requests for virtual visits or appointments. As patients submit their information or request consultations, the software automatically assigns them a place in the queue based on factors like urgency, appointment type, or healthcare provider availability. This ensures that patients are seen in a timely manner, reducing waiting times and enhancing patient satisfaction.
Waiting lists for in-person appointments
Efficient waiting list management is also crucial for in-person appointments to streamline the patient experience. A well-designed patient intake system should include automated waiting lists that prioritize and manage incoming appointment requests. This systematic approach ensures that in-person patients are attended to promptly, minimizing waiting times and improving patient access to care.
Integration with your current tech stack
A proficient patient intake and scheduling software should seamlessly integrate with your current software systems, workflows, and third-party applications. These integrations allow the intake and scheduling software to work harmoniously with your electronic health record (EHR) systems, e-prescribing software, and other existing internal systems. By consolidating various functions, you can streamline operations, reduce redundant data entry, maintain data interoperability, and enhance overall productivity.
Opting for a comprehensive patient access platform with digital intake capabilities ensures optimal outcomes for your healthcare organization. By offering features such as telehealth, calendar management and patient communication, a holistic patient access platform enables seamless coordination, improved efficiency, and better patient access. The all-inclusive approach streamlines workflows, fosters patient engagement, and facilitates comprehensive organizational insights from intake to follow-up.
For instance, a solution that offers both digital patient intake and telehealth capabilities empowers your organization to deliver services across various care modalities (in-person, virtual, hybrid, home visits) through a single software solution. Using one unified tool simplifies operations, reduces the administrative burden, and elevates the overall patient experience.
Secure patient data handling
Data security and patient confidentiality are paramount in healthcare. The software should adhere to industry-standard security protocols, such as encryption of sensitive patient data, compliance with HIPAA regulations (or applicable data protection laws), and secure storage of patient records. It is better to look for a software with a single-tenant cloud architecture, as it ensures complete ownership of your data.
Reporting and analytics
Finally, the software should provide insightful reports and analytics on various aspects, such as patient volumes, wait times, clinician resource utilization, and overall system efficiency. This data empowers healthcare administrators to make data-driven decisions and optimize the patient intake process even further.
Robust patient intake software has the potential to revolutionize the patient access and experience at healthcare organizations by addressing the challenges posed by traditional intake methods and leveraging technology to enhance efficiency and personalization.
Digital patient intake offers a faster and more efficient process, reduced errors and improved data accuracy, real-time access to patient information, enhanced privacy and security, time and cost savings, improved patient access, and valuable data analysis insights.
When selecting your patient intake software, it is essential to consider key features such as custom flows for personalized patient experiences, automated waiting lists, seamless integration with existing tech stack, secure patient data handling, and reporting and analytics capabilities.
By embracing technology and investing in modern patient intake solutions, medical groups can transform the patient experience. A streamlined and personalized intake process not only sets the stage for a positive patient-provider relationship but also enhances overall organizational efficiency and the delivery of high-quality healthcare services.
Ultimately, patients benefit from reduced wait times, personalized care, increased engagement, and a more satisfying healthcare journey. Embracing robust patient intake software is a strategic step towards a patient-centric approach that propels medical groups toward delivering exceptional patient experience.
To learn how Healee can help you launch your fully-branded patient intake and scheduling solution, request a personalized demo now.