Patients visiting a doctor’s office for the first time are used to the onboarding process: filling out paperwork, answering questions, providing insurance information and the like. Scheduling appointments and the onboarding process were largely offline, and it was a process that hadn’t seen much change in decades. Additionally, patients expect that healthcare providers will follow applicable data privacy laws, such as Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), to ensure that their data is kept safe and the provider’s policies are compliant.
Enter COVID-19. While self-service, app-based processes had been growing long before the pandemic, the healthcare industry witnessed an almost-overnight transition to digital onboarding. Patients seek information and communication via online channels and have quickly adopted digital methods to schedule appointments, manage information and interact with providers.
In fact, the onboarding process “provides the first impression of your facility and sets the tone for the patient’s experience,” notes technology provider Formstack. “If you want to get patients off to a good start, it’s critical to adopt a digital workflow that allows for paperless onboarding.”
Healthcare professionals and their organizations also had to quickly ramp up their digital offerings to accommodate new needs and workflows. Patient registration onboarding is now expected, and several best practices can be put in place to provide not only a superior experience but also one that is private and secure.
1. Identity Verification
Patients need to provide a valid, government-issued photo ID at the doctor’s office or hospital, so why shouldn’t they provide it virtually for the app of a healthcare provider?
This might seem like a new, unusual process for individuals accustomed to in-person identity verification, but in the new digital world of patient-provider interactions, it is imperative for the organization to provide a heavy explanation along the way. This is not only to ensure that the new patient is doing it properly (i.e., taking a selfie that properly shows the face) but also to explain why these steps are important for everyone’s protection.
2. Patient Intake Forms
Similar to what they previously did in person at doctor’s offices, clinics or hospitals, digital patient onboarding should also present an intuitive, but thorough, set of forms to fill out.
While auto-fill options might seem a way to create a faster, frictionless experience for the new patient, healthcare organizations sometimes opt to have the patient fill out repeat fields in order to verify identity and reduce fraud. Even something as simple as a misspelled name on one screen could be a red flag for the provider. While speed enhances the experience, incorrect registration information could be problematic.
3. Insurance Verification
Similar to the patient intake forms cited above, healthcare organizations should ask for insurance information during the digital onboarding process and verify that it is correct. This is a critical step in onboarding.
Failure to verify insurance coverage or to obtain any necessary prior authorizations can lead to issues later on, such as surprise medical bills for the patient. If the patient cannot cover the bill, then the organization loses revenue.
4. Private, Secure Patient Portal
Another best practice for patient onboarding is to establish the preferred methods of communication between the healthcare organization and the patient.
A regular email, text or WhatsApp message might seem to be the simplest, most frictionless way to communicate, but onboarding must explain that sensitive data cannot be shared via public communications channels. Such public methods of communications can be used for alerts, but patient information should not be shared in that manner, as it presents the risk of breaching confidentiality.
As such, many healthcare organizations have opted for the use of a secure, patient portal, through which information can be uploaded, shared, and viewed by both parties. Messaging can also take place through the secure portal to ensure the security and privacy of sensitive, personal information. For added security, organizations often opt for multi-factor authentication, which requires another modality (temporary passcode, biometrics) in addition to a password, in order to gain entry.
Indeed, the failure to safeguard personal health information is one of the most common violations of HIPAA that have resulted in financial penalties. Patients want to know that their information is both private and safe and is not being captured and stored by a company in violation of federal law. Communicating compliance with HIPAA should be part of the new patient onboarding process.
Onboarding should explain this in detail and perhaps offer a type of mini-training to explain how best to communicate health-related data.
5. Continued Access to Profiles and Data
Onboarding should also present the new patient with the opportunity to access their data whenever they would like, securely through the portal or app.
In this way, onboarding can be presented in a helpful light: Retrieval of personal health information can be a good thing, and with proper onboarding, the patient will be not only more informed but also empowered with the control of their data.
6. Instnt Accept™ for Private, Secure Patient Onboarding
As patient-provider interactions increase online, strong, robust onboarding is needed to ensure the safe sharing of important, sensitive data. It is also needed to thwart cybercriminals wishing to gain unlawful access to a healthcare organization.
Onboarding can also serve as an education or training tool that helps new patients understand how best to interact and engage with both the provider and their medical data stored by that provider.
Additionally, there are more and more businesses entering the healthcare industry, and so specialized onboarding from Instnt Accept™ is required for such businesses that may not have needed to consider this in the past. Med spas, medical-equipment suppliers and home health providers are examples of small businesses that deal in sensitive healthcare data and that might consider incorporating a more extensive onboarding process into their operations.
Secure Patient Registration with Instnt Accept™
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