By Ashley Lodato
Associate Director, HIM Solutions, Streamline Health
In health care, we can sometimes think of the patient experience as taking place in the waiting room and examination room. But while these are key to treatment, there are a number of factors outside the physical visit that impact quality of care.
Patients might not think about how their health records transfer from one organization to another, but ease of chart retrieval plays an important role in the success of each visit. Likewise, follow-up care, post-appointment communications and billing all contribute to the patient’s overall opinion and experience. When patients see their bill, they should be able to identify themselves within that data.
Immediately, it becomes clear that health information management and technology are inextricably tied to patient satisfaction. The human aspect of treatment and the technological features of data management are two sides of the same coin: Patient experience. The value of that coin is extremely high to most organizations, because better experiences inevitably translate to increased patient loyalty.
Here’s how HIM affects patient experience at every stage of care:
“HIM affects a patient’s experience from start to finish.”
Before the visit
A driving force behind the modernization of HIT has been interoperability. An organization’s system just isn’t effective if it can’t interface with other EHS systems. When a patient makes the change from one organization to another, they want the transition of data to be seamless and easy.
Patients change doctors for many reasons – they may not be getting the results they expect from treatment, their insurance provider may have changed or they have had a bad experience. Whatever the reason for the switch, if an organization can make a stellar first impression – and follow up on it – it gains a loyal patient.
In addition to transferring secure data from another organization, someone should actually read the data carefully to ensure a smooth transition. For instance, if a diabetic patient arrives at a new care center, the staff there should know when previous tests were conducted. This step improves patient care and the accurate capturing of HCCs may improve revenue.
During the visit
During an appointment with a physician, a lot of data is generated. Nurses and physicians record patient data from the examination, lab technicians amend records with the results of tests and X-rays and other documents may get attached to the records. Then, all of this data needs to be readily accessible during the patient’s visit and kept secure at all times.
This kind of data is especially useful when a patient’s condition requires a second opinion. A study published in The RAND Journal of Economics found that HIT, and thus HIM, improved patient experiences in cases where the condition required cross-specialty care coordination. If both physicians have access to the same record, there’s less inherent risk of data loss or miscommunication.
“Code audits ensure accurate bills.”
After the visit
Even if every stage of the doctor’s visit goes well, the entire experience can still be spoiled by a billing problem. If a coder makes a mistake and overcharges a patient’s insurance, resulting in a claim denial, the patient may never return to that practice or hospital again. This is why focus on HIM remains relevant to any hospitals’s quest for greater patient satisfaction.
HIM permeates every step of patient experience. Billing might not be the first thought during a conversation about patient outcomes – but it is something that HIM professionals need to consider. Improvements to the billing cycle of your organization will ultimately improve patient satisfaction rates and increase loyalty.