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In Transition: Avoiding Mistakes When Patients Transfer to Your Practice

New patients represent an opportunity for your practice to walk the talk about efficiency and service. At the same time, adding a new patient who isn't a newborn requires taking in sometimes extensive medical history in order to provide appropriate care. Your medical billing personnel will require accurate information about insurance and demographics, and the new patient will need information about how your office handles things like prescription refills.

In many cases, a powerful electronic health records (EHR) system can make the difference between the addition of a new patient being a cumbersome chore and bringing in new patients efficiently and starting the doctor-patient relationship off on a positive note. Here are some things to consider when new patients transfer to your medical practice.

Gathering Initial Patient Information

Even if a patient arranges to have old medical records forwarded, your office will still need to collect fairly extensive patient information for diagnostic and medical billing purposes. When the option is available for new patients to complete this information online through a patient portal, many benefits result. For one thing, it's faster and requires only a negligible amount of time on the part of office staff. For another, many patients are more forthcoming when communicating with a web portal than they would be on a paper form, or in answering questions asked by a nurse. New patient information taken in electronically can be made to automatically populate practice databases, and there are no worries about illegible handwriting.

Determining if a Patient is New or Established

It's also important to determine if a patient should be coded as "new" or "established," and it's not always as clear-cut as it seems. Obviously, if someone moves in from out of town and has never seen your physicians before, they're a new patient. But in a large, multi-specialty practice, the distinction may depend on which specialists are seen, and how long ago a patient received services. Understanding whether to code new patients as "new" or "established" is essential to proper medical billing and to prevent duplication of effort. Make sure your medical billing staff is trained to differentiate between new and established patients, particularly if you operate a large, or multi-specialty practice.

Making Policies Clear About Things Like Acute Care and Refills

Communication with all patients is vital, but with new patients it's important to start off the relationship with strong communication and understand that the patient may have different experiences with things like how to get prescriptions refilled and what to expect when acute care is needed.

Having clear written policies about these things, and providing them to patients both online and by hard copy can prevent miscommunication and wasted time. Clearly communicating your financial policy is also essential to ensure your medical billing operations remain efficient and on track.

Ensuring the Nuts and Bolts of Practice Management Operate Efficiently

Finally, for new and established patients, it's essential to periodically assess how well the day-to-day non-clinical processes of your practice are functioning. Are front office workers required to answer more than two phone lines? Have you tried out your automated phone menu system to hear for yourself how easy or difficult it is to navigate? Do you have an established process for confirming appointments in plenty of time to allow filling of time slots vacated by patient cancelations? Does your practice have an organized system of delivering messages to clinicians (perhaps color-coded messages based on the type of information in the message)? When these aspects of the practice suffer, outstanding patient care may not be enough to make up for inefficiencies in terms of positive patient experience.

Every time a new patient phones for an appointment or arrives for services, you have an opportunity to demonstrate efficiency, compassion, and outstanding skill. Furthermore, excellent new patient processes can ensure that medical billing is accurate and efficient, so cash flow doesn't suffer. In many cases, the type of EHR system a practice uses can make or break the new patient experience, so it's important to make sure your practice doesn't use just any system, but one that is a good fit for your specialty, patient load, and staffing levels. GroupOne Health Source invites you to contact us for a free EHR consult. See what the right EHR system can do in terms of serving both new and long-time patients.

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