What is patient intake?
Patient intake refers to the process a practice takes to onboard a new patient or check in an existing patient. Practices may need to collect a range of information, including:
- Personal contact information: This can include the patient’s full name, address, phone number, and email address.
- Other demographic information: Such as the patient’s date of birth, gender, race, and ethnicity.
- Insurance and billing information: For example, the patient’s insurance company and policy number as well as their payment information for co-pays and other patient charges.
- Medical history: This may include information on the patient’s past medical conditions, surgeries, medications, or allergies, as well as family medical histories.
- Social history: This can include information about the patient’s lifestyle, such as their occupation or alcohol and tobacco use.
- Emergency contact information: In other words, the name, relation, and phone number of someone the practice can call in case of an emergency.
- Consent forms: While these can vary by practice and the reason for a patient’s visit, they may include a general consent form, assignment of benefits, and acknowledgment of receipt of the HIPAA Notice of Privacy Practices.
In some cases, this information may be collected via paperwork that a patient has to fill out manually and then a practice staff member has to manually record or upload in the patient’s electronic health record (EHR). The process can be time-consuming for both parties — and may be more subject to error.
Additional steps of the intake process
Paperwork isn’t the only part of the patient intake process. While the specific steps of the patient intake process may vary by provider and a patient’s individual needs, it can include:
- Scheduling an appointment: One of the first steps in the intake process may be scheduling an appointment with a healthcare provider. This may be done either over the phone or online. The patient will typically need to provide some basic information about their medical history and the reason for the appointment.
- Registration: Before the appointment begins, the patient will need to provide any necessary intake paperwork. Depending on the practice, this may be done digitally before the appointment or manually in the practice’s waiting room.
- Vitals and triage: Once in the exam room, a doctor or nurse will check a patient’s vitals, review medical history and discuss current symptoms.
After these steps are complete, the visit with the healthcare provider can commence as planned.
Challenges of the current patient intake process
The patient intake process is necessary for medical practices to gather relevant patient information, identify health risks, confirm insurance coverage, meet legal and regulatory requirements, and more. That said, it may not be without potential challenges. For example:
- Time-consuming paperwork: Intake paperwork can be time-consuming for patients and practices alike. As we mentioned, in many cases, the patient has to fill out paperwork manually, and then someone from the practice must manually record the information.
- Unreliable data: If a patient feels rushed or unwell, they may not provide complete information on paper forms. Their handwriting may be hard to read. Or they may have written something incorrectly. On the flip side, a staff member may incorrectly transpose patient information into their EHR.
- Lack of patient engagement: Patients may not fully engage in the intake process, which may also lead to incomplete or inaccurate information.
- Longer patient wait times: There’s no denying the delay that patient intake can potentially cause to a provider’s schedule. For example, if paperwork takes 20 minutes to fill out, and a patient doesn’t arrive 20 minutes early for their appointment, they’ll most likely eat into their appointment time, which could cause all subsequent appointments to start late.
As a result, these long intake processes and delays can be frustrating for patients and providers. Fortunately, more and more practices are adopting digital patient forms and automated intake processes to help overcome these challenges and improve the patient experience.
How technology is improving digital intake for practices
Technology can help medical practices be more efficient, accurate and patient-centered. Nearly 9 in 10 healthcare organizations use EHRs to record and access patient information. Depending on the EHR, practices may be able to automate key processes like patient scheduling, intake forms, and patient check-in — or they can use a third-party provider like Klara that seamlessly connects to their EHR to streamline workflows.
On the patient side, some health-tech providers may allow patients to use a mobile device to schedule an appointment online, submit intake information, answer provider questions and more. This may help to improve the patient experience while also benefiting providers.
Why automating patient intake may benefit providers
There are several ways providers may benefit from an automated patient intake process. Some potential benefits may include:
- Time savings: Automating patient intake — including appointment scheduling, registration, and check-in — may help healthcare providers and staff save time and reduce paperwork.
- Improvements in patient data accuracy: Automated systems may help reduce errors with tools that standardize data entry, verify information and more.
- Better patient experience: Automating patient intake may help reduce patient wait times, simplify the registration process and provide a more convenient and streamlined patient experience.
- Improved communication: Health-tech providers, like Klara, are designed to help providers and patients communicate more efficiently by digitizing and centralizing communication. Patients may no longer have to deal with busy signals, your staff may reduce time spent playing phone tag, and care team members might be better informed about a patient’s care plan.
Tips to help improve your patient intake process
To experience these potential benefits for your practice, consider these five tips:
1. Identify areas for improvement
Conduct a thorough review of your current patient intake process to see what’s working and what’s not. For example, are patients often complaining of long wait times? Is paperwork taking too much time for patients and your staff? Are you experiencing frequent data entry errors? Whatever the case may be, identifying the key issues in your intake process can help you devise the right plan to improve it.
2. Automate intake workflows
To reduce paperwork and unnecessary phone calls, consider automating your intake workflows. This may include letting patients schedule appointments online, submit insurance and intake information digitally or even check in to their appointments before stepping foot into your office. With an interoperable solution, the information patients submit digitally may map to their EHR, to help avoid data entry errors.
3. Train staff
No matter what intake procedure you adopt, it may be important to train your staff on the new process and any systems you plan to use. That way, everyone is more likely to be up to speed and on the same page.
4. Engage patients
Inform your patients about your new intake process so they know what to expect, how to prepare and what information they’ll be asked to provide. Also consider giving them opportunities to ask questions, provide feedback and participate in decision-making about their care.
How Klara can help your practice with patient intake
If you’re ready to find a solution to help improve patient intake, consider Klara, a conversational patient engagement platform with powerful automation tools to help you streamline and automate your workflows, including the intake journey. For example:
- Scheduling appointments: Patients can easily schedule appointments online or using their mobile devices.
- Appointment reminders: Send automated and personalized appointment reminder texts to patients, allowing them to confirm, cancel or reschedule with a simple text back to your practice.
- Insurance collection and intake: Send automated messages to patients requesting insurance and other intake information, which they can submit via a secure link.
- Pre-visit instructions: If a patient is coming in for a procedure or test that requires specific preparation, send them instructions via automated messages.
- Follow-ups: After a visit, send automated messages to check on a patient, gather feedback and reviews, or — if a patient was a no-show — send a link for them to make a new appointment.
To learn more about Klara’s intake automation tools, two-way text messaging and other solutions, schedule a demo today.