Case Study: Integrating Patient Tracking With Registration Data Improves Workflow & Patient Satisfaction

Note: This case study was produced for HealthWare Systems by Healthcare Business Insights.

As healthcare reform continues to move forward, patient satisfaction has become a
growing concern for hospital and health system leaders, especially those who oversee
revenue cycle functions like patient registration. Registration wait times often correlate
directly with patient satisfaction, with high wait times typically leading to decreased
satisfaction. Therefore, healthcare organizations that are able to reduce wait times
may be able to improve patient satisfaction and the reimbursement tied to satisfaction
scores. To do this, many organizations are exploring tools and tactics that help
streamline and improve patient throughput, and some healthcare organizations are
implementing patient tracking software that provides leaders with tools to manage
their registration areas. To learn about the experiences of an organization that recently implemented a patient tracking solution, The Academy spoke with Philip Quick, the Director of Patient Access Services at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center.

Challenges

Illinois Masonic is a 409-bed hospital located in Chicago with over 800 physicians.
The hospital had a patient tracking tool in place, but it was limited in its capabilities and lacked important functionality. Most notably, the patient tracking system did not integrate with the hospital’s scheduling or ADT system, meaning that the greeter and registrars had to toggle between systems to find all of the information they needed.

Furthermore, the lack of integration prevented Illinois Masonic from reporting workflow
data on the individual patient level. “With our previous software we had the ability
to track patients and pull reports but it was high-level and generic reporting,” Quick
explains. “So I knew what my wait times were, I knew how long patients took to register, and I had all of that information, but there was never any patient information allocated to it.” So, if the hospital received a complaint from a patient regarding wait times, leaders were unable to look back into the data to identify the specific encounter or provide dedicated education to the staff member who was working that registration.

This patient tracking system also lacked integration with any of the clinical departments. The clinical staff members regularly made phone calls to the main registration area because they were unsure of whether a scheduled patient had registered, and when the patient would be arriving in the department. “Clinical staff had no idea if someone was here or where they were in the process,” Quick says.

Solution

Based on the deficiencies with its previous patient tracking tool, Illinois Masonic
decided to implement ActiveTRACK, HealthWare Systems’ patient tracking solution.
The medical center has had a successful relationship with HealthWare Systems for
more than nine years and the solution provider’s order management system has already
helped drive a 28% reduction in wait times by ensuring the registrars had accurate
documentation in their hands. The success of this initial engagement opened the door to discussions regarding ActiveTRACK, and Illinois Masonic recognized that it would help improve front-end workflow even further.

Using ActiveTRACK, the patient encounter at Illinois Masonic now begins when the patient checks in with a greeter in the outpatient pavilion. Each patient is given a de-identified alpha-numeric number and then waits to be called by both an audio cue and a visual message on screens within the waiting area. While patients are waiting, the greeter has access to the ActiveTRACK interface which shows the status of each registration booth, a wait list, and the wait times for each patient. Illinois Masonic can use this interface to route patients to certain registrars based on a variety of characteristics. For example, walk-in patients might be directed to a different registrar since they typically take longer to register. Illinois Masonic also uses this routing capability to prioritize patients based on acuity in its direct admissions intake area. “Those [direct admission patients] are sick patients who are being admitted to the hospital, and I need to get them in, checked in, and to their room as quickly as possible,” Quick notes. “So I can dedicate a registrar to call those patients in a priority sequence.”

Once a patient is called to a specific registration booth by the audio and visual cues, the registrar has direct access to all of the necessary information in a single view since all of the pre-arrival tools—including order management and document management with electronic signatures—are integrated. Once registration is complete, the registrar transfers the patient to the appropriate service area. Clinical staff members have access to ActiveTRACK and are able to see patients’ statuses and receive alerts when one is routed to the clinician’s area. ActiveTRACK also has paging capabilities, so service areas, technicians and even transport associates can be automatically paged when a patient’s registration is complete.

ActiveTRACK also provides leaders, at Illinois Masonic, with tools to effectively manage workflow issues both during and after patient encounters. Quick and his supervisors receive a text and an email whenever a patient’s wait time exceeds a defined period of time or whenever the number of patients waiting to be registered exceeds a certain threshold. “If I have leaders around there, they are able to go there directly and say what do you need?’ rather than waiting for someone to escalate it to us,” Quick explains.

If a patient complains about the registration process, Quick is able to look back at the reports which tie specific patients to the wait time data. He is able to break down the entire encounter to see when the patient checked in with the greeter, how long he or she waited to register, how long the registration process took, the amount of time the patient waited for transfer to the clinical area, and the duration of the treatment itself. If any part of that process is longer than normal, leadership at Illinois Masonic can meet with the appropriate staff member(s) to take corrective action.

Results

It has been six months since Illinois Masonic implemented ActiveTRACK, since then the organization has seen wait time improvement and has surpassed its ultimate goal. Quick explained that the hospital set its wait time benchmark at six minutes and would like to keep every patient below that threshold. After six months of using ActiveTRACK, Illinois Masonic has managed to reduce patient wait time by 50% from a six-minute average to a three-minute average and reduce registration transaction time for scheduled patients by 25% from an eight-minute average to a six-minute average. Furthermore, Illinois Masonic has reallocated 1.5 FTEs, and has an upward trending patient satisfaction score.

In the current healthcare environment, patient satisfaction is more critical than ever before, since it impacts both an organization’s reputation and its reimbursement. For many patients, the experience they have at the very beginning of an appointment colors their opinions about the service they receive. Implementing a patient tracking solution allows hospitals and health systems to take control over the beginning portion of a patient’s visit, improving both patient satisfaction and patient throughput.

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