Is online registration right for your practice?

We can all remember back to high school physics class — okay, maybe we can’t remember back quite that far — but we at least remember Newton’s third law: every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

Newton was referring to forces of motion when he created this law, but I’ve found that it can apply to many other areas of life as well.

Every choice we make has side effects — some positive, some not-so-positive.

6.8.16 Newton

Splurging on a new car could make it hard to afford your yearly week at the beach this summer. Eating a fourth slice of pizza might mean you’re too full with a food baby to play with your kids after dinner. (Not that that’s ever happened to me, of course.)

When it comes to online registration for your practice, there are a few positives and a few negatives you should consider. You’ll want to weigh up the pros and cons for your practice to make the best decision for you.

Pro: Saves Time

This is two-fold. Allowing patients to fill out their registration forms online at home cuts down on time in the waiting room, which is a big plus. But you’ll also be operating on a more realistic timeframe. When you tell a patient their appointment is at 3:00 but you hand them a stack of papers when they walk in the door, their appointment really is more like 3:30. It takes 15-20 minutes to fill everything out and input the information. So online registration allows your schedules to be more consistent.

Con: Time Spent on Training

Like learning any new skill, you’ll need to invest time into training the front desk staff to master online registration. A lot of doctors get stuck at the transition, not knowing when the time is right to switch over to online registration. You’ll have to spend time learning the new system to the point where everyone is comfortable enough to help patients through the process.

Pro: Increases Income

Allowing patients to fill out their forms ahead of time helps tremendously when it comes to eligibility checks.   Properly performing eligibility checks helps tremendously with revenue retention, getting your claims processed, and being paid on time. Online registration also allows your front desk to work smarter, not harder. Instead of working on low-level tasks like handing out forms and making sure they’re completed, your staff can spend their time on higher-level tasks like reconnecting with patients who haven’t been in for a while or working on marketing projects.

Con: Financial Investment

Of course, you should consider the cost of the online registration program itself, but you’ll also need to think about the additional hours training your staff. I recommend that you have your staff train on the system outside of normal working hours. The incentive of extra pay during overtime is a huge motivator, and it allows them to be fully focused on learning the new software, rather than being distracted by other things.

Pro: Technology Provides Better Information

Online registration provides more accurate information than paper-and-pen systems. Software ensures that all required sections are filled out, so you won’t even need to worry about training your front desk for effective data capture.  The information from registration forms is automatically integrated into your system, eliminating the human error that inevitably occurs when transferring the data into the system. Some programs can also integrate with other systems like the post office, checking that the format for addresses is correct, the zip codes match up with the city name, etc. This allows you to catch potential errors that would hold up processing claims.

Con: Technology Can Be Confusing

Some patients don’t like technology. Either they prefer the pen and paper, or in geriatric populations, for example, they are confused or frustrated by technology. The last thing you as a provider wants to do is bring stress to your patients, yet technology can do that in some situations. Also, not all doctors and front desk personnel are comfortable using technology. Some headaches can occur if your team isn’t very tech-savvy and you don’t take the time to properly train on the new system.

Pro: Tech Makes You More Prepared

When patients fill out their registration ahead of time, it helps docs be more prepared and know what to expect for each visit. Front desk staff and nurses can know which rooms need to be prepped and what tools, tests, etc. need to be present. Registration forms can be linked with EHRs to check patient history and tie the presenting problem with prior medical history. All of this information makes doctors much more prepared for each visit. It not only cuts down on appointment time but also makes for a much more satisfying experience for the patient.

Con: Tech Can Leave You Empty-Handed

I need to address the one big fear that many of our providers mention when they make the switch — what happens if the system fails? I’m not going to lie, it’s possible that online systems could crash. The whole system could fail, freeze, or go down for periods of time. But I will say that the chances of this happening are extremely low. In my 11 years of running IPS, I’ve only seen this a handful of times.

Online Registration Tip

If you do decide to use online registration, I recommend that you have a backup system as well, so that people who are either unable or unwilling to register online have an alternative they can use.

For example, you could tell patients who complain about online registration that they can come in 15-20 minutes prior to their appointment and fill the forms out at the office. Offering this alternative can do wonders in terms of patient satisfaction and service.

Does your office use an online registration system? If so, what benefits and unforeseen consequences have you run into while using it? If not, what’s holding you back? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments!

Adopting an online registration system is a big decision. If you want to learn more, we’re here for you. IPS is offering complimentary 30-minute consultations so you can get your specific online registration questions answered. Click here to sign up and learn if online registration is the best choice for you.

In our white paper 5 Strategies to Accelerate Cash Flow & Increase Profits, we’re digging deep into the tools, techniques, and tips to make your office more profitable. Online registration is just one of the topics we touch upon. Click here to instantly download your free copy.

JASMINE VJasmine Vializ is the President and CEO of Integrated Practice Solutions, a billing and practice management company designed to increase the quality of healthcare by helping doctors to prioritize their patients while boosting their bottom line.

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