Operations

5 Proven Strategies for Improving Patient Intake Efficiency

Learn how clinics can overcome the most common challenges associated with the traditional patient intake process.
January 16, 2024
4 min

Patient intake refers to the process in which healthcare providers collect personal, medical, and insurance information from patients before their appointment or treatment begins.

A streamlined patient intake process sets the tone for the entire patient experience — it keeps patient records accurate, reduces wait times, and helps clinics provide efficient and effective care.

Let’s see how clinics can tackle common challenges associated with traditional patient intake methods, and transform them into opportunities for excellence.

The problem with the traditional patient intake process

Extensive paperwork and manual data entry are the hallmarks of the traditional patient intake process. Time-consuming and error-prone, this approach often leads to long wait times and frustration, creating a stumbling block in the path of efficient healthcare delivery. 

Recognizing these challenges is the first step towards transforming patient intake into a seamless, patient-friendly experience.

A chart outlining the traditional patient intake process.
Overview of the traditional patient intake process. Source: Phreesia

There are many problems with this process:

  1. Lengthy paperwork: The traditional intake process involves a lot of paperwork, with patients frequently having to provide the same information multiple times. On top of it, manual data entry also increases the risk of errors.
  2. Impact on health outcomes: In a traditional setting, there can be delays in making patient information readily accessible to healthcare providers, which can slow down decision-making and treatment processes.
  3. Poor patient experience and satisfaction: Cumbersome and confusing intake processes can negatively impact patient experience, causing frustration and dissatisfaction before the patient even sees a healthcare provider.
  4. Resource intensive: The traditional process is often resource-heavy, requiring substantial paperwork, storage space, and manual management. It wastes time your staff could be spending on providing direct care.

Let’s see how new technologies and practices can transform patient intake into an efficient and satisfying experience. 

1. Implement online pre-registration and check-in

If you don’t have online pre-registration and check-in, it’s time to reconsider that decision.  

Empowering patients to submit information electronically prior to their visit eliminates repetitive form-filling and reduces wait times. This gives patients control over their information while boosting the accuracy of patient records.

A digital patient intake form example.
A digital patient intake form example. Source: Lobbie.com

Automated data entry through online systems also lightens the administrative burden on your staff, freeing time to focus on their patients.

Before you implement those forms, make sure they are HIPPA/GDPR compliant.

2. Offer the option to (re)schedule visits online

Another way to streamline patient intake is to offer the convenience of online appointment scheduling. This allows patients to manage their appointments anytime, anywhere. You can also set up automatic reminders, allowing patients to easily cancel or reschedule their meetings (which should lead to fewer no-show appointments). 

As a side benefit, such a system will also significantly reduce phone traffic and lighten the administrative load. 

3. Gather patient feedback about the intake process

Actively collecting patient feedback is crucial for continuously improving the intake process.  There is simply no better way to identify issues and find areas for improvement.

Imagine a clinic that already uses an online pre-appointment questionnaire to streamline the intake process. After analyzing patient complaints, the quality managers concluded that many found the questionnaire too lengthy and complex, leading to incomplete submissions and delays upon arrival. 

In response, the clinic shortened the questionnaire, focusing on essential information only and providing clear guidance on how to complete it. This adjustment, informed by direct patient feedback, resulted in more patients fully completing the questionnaire prior to their visit, significantly reducing wait times and improving the efficiency of the intake process.

The easiest way to set up a system for collecting patient feedback is by implementing a platform like InsiderCX that can help you automate the whole process via white-label mobile surveys.

An example of a mobile patient survey built using InsiderCX.
An example of a mobile patient survey built using InsiderCX.

4. Automate and standardize intake procedures

Standardized intake procedures ensure consistency in how patient data is collected, stored, and used. However, clinics that want to limit errors and improve data accuracy will have to digitalize their intake process.

Another benefit is that uniform intake procedures eliminate variability and simplify staff training, making sure that everyone follows the same high-quality protocols. Examples include many of the things we already talked about:

  • Implementing digital patient forms
  • Using standardized screening questions
  • Implementing automated appointment reminders
  • Adopting protocols for handling and discussing sensitive patient information
  • Looking for tools that automatically verify patient’s insurance
  • Streamlining the billing process
  • And similar

5. Streamline the billing process

An efficient, transparent billing process is crucial for patient satisfaction and intake efficiency. You never want to see your practice managers having to chase down patients to get bills paid.

Implementing a simple billing system can help clinicians minimize the cases of incorrect billing information and introduce transparency into the process that demystifies healthcare expenses.

Consumer-friendly options like online payments and self-service payment plans help patients stay on top of their finances and assume greater responsibility for the costs of their care. Finally, flexible payment options increase the chance that the bill will be covered in full. Take patient intake efficiency to the next level.

Take patient intake efficiency to the next level

This article can be summarized with a saying — out with the old, in with the new.

As the major parts of the process can be automated, clinics that are serious about optimizing patient intake will have to search for and implement specific digital solutions.

They can support this effort by implementing a feedback collection system to find, track, prioritize, and rectify emerging operational issues.

This cycle of improvement, centered on providing better healthcare services, is crucial for ensuring the ultimate patient experience.

InsiderCX Editorial Team
This article was researched, written, polished, and published by the InsiderCX editorial team.

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