As healthcare organizations look for ways to provide care and limit contact between patients and staff during COVID-19, many are implementing telehealth services. A recent report from The Commonwealth Fund, Harvard University and Phreesia found that while in-person ambulatory visits are down 60%, telehealth visits have increased 30%. Additionally, a Forrester Research report found that the number of virtual visits in the U.S. is expected to exceed 1 billion in 2020, largely because of COVID-19. Patient intake is a critical piece of the virtual visit—while standards and expectations around in-person appointments have changed, the need for efficient intake has not.

Keeping staff and patients safe is now more important than ever. But if you’re shifting in-person appointments to telehealth visits, it’s important to think about how you’ll manage all of the pre-visit processes in a virtual setting that normally happen in the waiting room. Even with a telehealth solution in place, healthcare organizations still need a system for performing the necessary intake tasks ahead of time and at scale.

Automated digital intake allows you to consistently capture key patient information, including demographics, clinical history, consent forms and copays, to properly manage the virtual visit.

For example, when a Cincinnati-based pediatrics group was looking for a way to mirror its in-office registration process for telehealth visits, the organization used automated intake to verify patients’ billing and demographic information, collect past-due balances and ensure consents were completed in a timely fashion.

According to the organization’s practice administrator, automating the intake process was crucial for creating a seamless virtual care experience. “Without [it], our team would have to try to get that information on the back end which can be very challenging, especially without face-to-face patient interaction,” she said.

Automated intake offers patients convenience and privacy because they can complete all of the steps of the check-in process from their own device. At the same time, it keeps them engaged and activated in their care. That’s important, since they won’t be physically present in your office and may need a reminder about their appointment.

Practices can also use automated intake workflows to reduce telehealth no-shows by sending a text message or email link to patients that reminds them to register, provides instructions for how to check in and sets expectations for the visit. One multi-site urology group saw their telehealth no-show rate decrease from 20% to 2% after using automated intake for its virtual visits.

In addition to collecting necessary registration information from patients, automating the intake process for telehealth visits allows you to administer clinical screening questions, such as those for COVID-19 risk factors, at scale. At the same time, the growing economic instability during the pandemic makes it especially important to add questions about employment status, financial needs, and food and housing insecurity, which play a major role in patients’ ability to care for themselves and their families. Automated intake for telehealth allows providers to screen patients for social determinants of health and provide targeted support at the point of care.

COVID-19 has brought monumental changes to healthcare and forced providers to adopt alternative methods of care delivery, such as telehealth. Many of these changes will likely continue post-pandemic, making it increasingly important for healthcare organizations to prioritize implementing the right systems and processes, including patient intake, to provide quality care experiences.

 

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