The Impact of Patient Access Registration on Creating the Ultimate Patient Experience

Patient access registration is often the first step in the patient journey as they enter the healthcare facility. The patient experience established during the registration process sets the expectations for the entire patient visit and is reflected directly and indirectly in patient satisfaction scores.

Given the impact the registration staff has on patient satisfaction, it is necessary to invest in proper tools that ensure the best patient experience.

At Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist, the patient access team is leveraging a software solution – WorkflowRT   (location-enabled by CenTrak’s RTLS infrastructure and patient badges) – to streamline the registration and patient communication process.

We asked Regina McCormick, B.S., Patient Access Registration Supervisor at the Adult and Pediatric Emergency Departments at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist, how technology enables them to create the ultimate patient experience.

Can you explain the role of the patient access registration staff?

Regina McCormick: When patients enter the doors of our Emergency Department, our staff is responsible for registering a patient so the process of delivering patient care can be initiated. Therefore, we are most often the first face a patient sees when they arrive, and we know that our interaction with the patient and their family sets the tone for their entire visit.

What are some ways to ensure the best patient experience?

Regina McCormick: Communication is the key! Patients and their families coming into an emergency room are already in a stressful situation, so we don’t want to add anything to their level of anxiety. We are fortunate that we have implemented a patient flow solution which enables for automated updates on the patient journey.

At registration, patients receive a real-time location badge.

Can you please explain how it works and what it means to the patient and their family members?

Regina McCormick: When a patient comes into our Emergency Department, we provide them with a location badge. We also ask who they would like to notify about the care progress. Sometimes it is the same person as the emergency contact in our EHR system, but often it is someone else who brought them into our ED. Patients have the ability to add additional members to the list of those who should receive an update – it could be a daughter or son not living in the same town, or family members who are on their way to the ED to be with them. As patients go through different phases of care, automated messages are sent from WorkflowRT on the patient care progress. This provides family members with real-time updates they receive as a text message on their phones, or if they are in the ED waiting area they can see them on the display boards. Our patients can also receive messages, which is a useful tool throughout their entire ED experience. Now, after registering with us they can sit in the area they are comfortable in, and when they get a notification that they are ready to be seen, they know that a member of the clinical team is coming with further instructions. This reduces stress levels for them and their loved ones, as they know how their care is progressing.

Has the system changed the way your staff works?

Regina McCormick: The system has helped to make conversations with our patients and their loved ones more intentional. Now, we talk to them about what is going to happen next, instead of answering “When am I going to be seen?” or “What is going on?” We are also able to help more patients by being more efficient, since people who approach our desk are either those who just came in and require a prompt registration or those who are ready to be sent to a triage room. In the past, we had many patients and their loved ones approaching our desks just to check if they had not been forgotten.

Another great benefit is that our clinical team has gained visibility into how long patients have been waiting before the triage or a treatment, which helps them to be prepared to address any patient concerns or comments right away, minimizing situations which required service recovery in the past.

How do you think this new process impacts patient satisfaction scores?

Regina McCormick: We hear many positive comments from patients and their families about the value of this communication tool in keeping them in the know. As I said at the beginning, the first contact in the ED sets the tone for their entire patient experience, so we feel that our patient access team plays a critical role in ensuring the highest level of patient satisfaction. Also, let’s not forget that a person who typically fills out the satisfaction survey is not actually a patient but their loved ones, so including family members in the overall patient experience helps to ensure high patient satisfaction scores.

Patient status updates in real time on the view board, allowing family members to stay up to date.

Have you leveraged technology during the COVID pandemic?

Regina McCormick:  Yes, we started using WorkflowRT prior to the COVID pandemic. When COVID surge forced us to apply a strict visitor policy, we were able to provide real-time updates to patients’ loved ones if they were not allowed to be with a patient in the ED. We continue to leverage this functionality and we know that if there is a new surge, we will be ready to best assist our patients and their families.

Thank you so much for sharing with us how the patient access team plays a role in creating the ultimate patient experience.

Regina McCormick:  Anytime! I love sharing how we can make our patients and their loved ones more comfortable when they walk through our doors. 

 Interview was conducted by Joanna Wyganowska, VP of Marketing at Infinite Leap.
Photos shared with permission from Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist.