Hospital Biz: Why Patient Access is A Vital Part of the Healthcare Experience

April 1, 2019

Patient Access Teams are important for patient care

By Martha Christian, Director of Patient Access and Admitting, Providence Health

In the face of our quickly changing healthcare environment, there is one constant: the Patient Access Department. The first interaction with patients often begins with the Access Department, which makes it so necessary to arm Specialists with the right answers and guidance to ensure customer satisfaction.

On average, Access Departments handle hundreds of requests each day—from physicians to nurses to patients and insurance companies. Access staff coordinate smooth admissions and patient transfers, pre-arrival services, while also holding knowledge of procedures of various insurance companies. Patient Access departments also provide financial counseling and point-of-service cash collections to our patients.

When people aren’t feeling well, they expect fast, accurate and friendly service. With Providence, we provide the tools that enable patient access employees to provide an exceptional patient experience. It has been proven that skills can be trained but kindness and warmth must be present for the first impression.

Here are some of the things directors of other departments at Providence have said about Patient Access' important role in healthcare:

“Gathering accurate information on the patient, especially correct insurance information, is how we receive our payments in order to keep the hospital running. Keeping accurate data from the doctor’s offices so that a patient is cared for in the best way is fundamental to patient health. Without detailed data, a patient could receive inaccurate care/services, even for a little miss-key of a birthdate or such, could be the difference in giving the right medication to the right patient.”

--Miranda Watkins, Manager Patients Accounts, Patient Billing

“This department is intermingled into everything that we do.  I depend on this team heavily and they always rise to the occasion with a high degree of professionalism and efficiency. They remain calm and professional when dealing with difficult situations, provide responsive follow-up to issues and concerns, demonstrate integrity and appreciation for others, and are eager to share their expertise….I could go on and on.”

--Monique Scott, Director Respiratory Therapy, Respiratory Therapy Unit,
overseeing Sleep Centers, Cardiopulmonary Rehab, Bronchoscopy and Pulmonary Function Lab

Janet Hewitt is part of the Patient Access process at Providence Health
Janet Hewitt greets patients with a smile at Providence Health

“That staff in Patient Access are often a patient’s first encounter which sets the tone of the patient experience.  The job(s) they perform must be done before any of us can do ours and we appreciate their role in providing patient care. The team is collaborative, knowledgeable and engaged.”

--Cookie Robinson, Director of Imaging

“Each of us has a job to do in this organization, but we never know how demanding someone else’s job is unless we are doing it.  Being the “first face” can sometimes be challenging and difficult situations arise that make it hard to smile sometimes and bring comfort to patients or even complete a task.  No matter what, I have seen firsthand how patient access takes hold of difficult situations, stay calm and still provide excellent customer service no matter what the situation is.  They ensure that work flow continues and process information and charts in a timely manner so patients can be seen quickly.”

--Royelle Clark, Clinical Director, Emergency Services, Providence Health-Fairfield

“This team is the lifeblood of the hospital... because of the information they capture all dots connect for continuity of care for the patient. One person said to me recently, ‘I was admitted to Providence and two days after being discharge from Providence my IM called me. He said he had received notes and the lab results from Providence and took me off calcium which was the cause of my dizziness. Had Providence not captured my Primary Care Doctor’s name at registration then my Doctor would have never received the notes and lab results and he wouldn’t have been able to take care of me.’”

--Libby Anne Inabinet, Physician & Community Relations Director

As we celebrate National Patient Access Week take the time to acknowledge these employees and their contributions to the healthcare industry. Established in 1982, Patient Access Week is a celebration of the people in the Patient Access Profession. The date marks the anniversary of the founding of the National Association of Healthcare Access Management (NAHAM), the only national professional organization dedicated to promoting excellence within the field. Each year, the celebrations span the entire week surrounding the anniversary, April 5.