3 ways to boost emergency department efficiency with mobile patient registration

Learn how mobile patient registration at the bedside can help improve emergency department patient flow and throughput.
Operations Patient Experience

Emergency departments (EDs) undertook lightning-quick transformations in response to the pandemic, demonstrating how effectively well these essential care settings can adapt to changing pressures and adopt new protocols. And yet, EDs are always looking for more ways to improve safety and efficiency.

In particular, EDs often focus on registration when they want to boost efficiency, especially because patient flow and throughput depend on how quickly patients can get registered. And there’s a safer, more automated process that can help achieve that goal—mobile patient registration at the bedside. 

How does mobile patient registration work in emergency departments?

To improve efficiency and flow, many hospitals have moved registration to the patient’s bedside instead of the ED front desk or triage area. When patients arrive, they receive a “quick reg”—staff ask just a few short questions including name, date of birth and reason for the visit. Once patients are in a room and waiting to see a provider, staff come to the bedside to collect additional crucial information, including demographic data, medical history, social history and insurance coverage. While quick reg has its benefits, it still requires significant staff time and increases both patients’ and staff’s risk of exposure to infectious diseases, including COVID-19.

But with mobile patient registration in the ED, patients can provide all their registration information themselves, using their own mobile device while waiting in the exam room. This capability saves staff time and reduces unnecessary patient contact. And even better, mobile patient registration aligns with the tech-enabled experiences patients have gotten used to during the pandemic—and that they prefer.  

This blog post outlines three reasons to institute mobile bedside registration: Staff have fewer manual tasks to complete; staff and patients stay safer by reducing contact with each other; and patients have a more modern experience.

1. Reduce manual tasks, save staff time and improve throughput with mobile patient registration

With widespread staffing shortages and high patient volumes, improving ED throughput and relieving staff’s administrative burden are more important than ever. Even when EDs shift to a more efficient bedside registration workflow, staff are still stuck moving from room to room and handling manual data entry. This repetitive work wastes time and contributes to burnout. With short-staffed registration desks, hanging onto employees is crucial.

Mobile registration eases some of that administrative burden. Staff no longer need to visit each exam room to complete registrations or manage a long line of patients needing their help. Patients can enter their information on their own device, either themselves or with the help of a family member, freeing up staff time for other tasks. Patient self-service keeps registration moving quickly, improves patient throughput and helps relieve staff exhaustion.

2. Keep staff and patients safe by reducing unnecessary contact

Just as COVID-19 case counts wax and wane over time, patients’ concerns about catching the virus change from month to month. Some individuals may not worry much anymore. But others may still be very concerned, especially patients with complex medical conditions or who are unable to be vaccinated.

EDs can feel like risky places to be when it comes to COVID-19 infection. A notable stressor among ED staff is concern about co-workers and patients infecting others with COVID-19 and the health of colleagues infected with the virus, according to a study published in Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Patients, too, worry about contracting COVID-19 in the ED. For example, when an ED in California saw a significant drop in patient volume early in the pandemic, researchers interviewed patients and learned that the overwhelming reason for the decline was fear of EDs and hospitals as “infectious reservoirs.”

While some face-to-face contact is always necessary in a hospital setting, mobile registration can help ensure that patients and staff interact only when necessary. Minimizing staff-patient contact is crucial for reducing the potential spread of COVID-19, influenza and other communicable diseases that are often the causes for ED visits. Plus, these digital tools help EDs prepare for future COVID-19 variants, flu season and other potential infectious disease outbreaks.

3. Give patients the modern, digital registration experience they expect

As they do with other industries, patients prefer—and increasingly expect—a digital-first approach to managing their healthcare. Patients’ expectations have been changing for years, and the pandemic has pushed many healthcare organizations to finally embrace new technologies that increase convenience and flexibility for patients.

Phreesia research has found a major spike in patients’ interest in and willingness to use digital tools to access care and communicate with healthcare staff. A 2022 Phreesia survey found that 86% of patients are comfortable using technology to manage their healthcare needs, with 51% saying they are very comfortable. And 64% of patients prefer digital check-in options because they see it as a more convenient, time saving, and faster option.

Mobile patient registration is exactly the type of easy-to-use, tech-enabled solution that patients want. And with the hiring crisis leading to fewer administrative staff in many EDs, meeting patients’ expectations with digital solutions makes things a little easier for staff, too.  

Learn how Phreesia can help your ED become more efficient, keep your staff and patients safer and improve the patient experience.