Unsung heroes of our healthcare system: Patient access representatives
As an evangelist for Imprivata’s positive patient identification solution, patient access is always on my mind. But recently, I was able to not only see our product in action, but also to meet the patient access representatives who use it.
With the NAHAM Patient Access conference coming up soon, it seemed like the perfect time to talk about that visit and highlight the patient access team.
Patient access: More than the name would suggest
It was just after 8:00 am on a Tuesday, and the Emergency Department of the urban health system that I was visiting was already busy. My main purpose for being there was to help assess an Imprivata PatientSecure upgrade implementation. From my time in departments ranging from emergency to mammography, I couldn’t help but observe again and again how patient access representatives are “ordinary people doing extraordinary things,” really unsung heroes of our healthcare system.
Regardless of how you enter into a healthcare facility – via an ambulance, in a wheelchair, or, if you’re lucky, on your own two feet – your first encounter is likely with a patient access representative (PAR). If you don’t recognize this official title, it refers to the people who are going to check you in and complete your registration. So, you as a patient can do what you really want to do: see a doctor.
What may seem like a series of straightforward questions like “what is your name and date of birth?” is really the tip of the iceberg of what PARs have to do to ensure the safety and effectiveness of an entire healthcare encounter. Standing behind the registration desk, I could see the dizzying array of screens and colors and commands that PARs need to navigate to get the patient’s correct medical record. That association of patient-to-record is critical. Clinicians must have access to the correct record, with the patient’s complete history, including chronic conditions, tests, and allergies.
It’s people, processes, and technology
It might seem that, in the year 2019, technology could make some aspects of the PAR’s job easier. That is one of the goals of Imprivata PatientSecure: to scan an image of a patient’s palm vein pattern, create a biometric identifier, encrypt the information, and link it to a patient’s record. With that process complete, future check-ins can be faster and more reliable.
Yet, with all the advancements of technologies, healthcare still relies on a people-intensive connection. While at our customer site, I witnessed people of different ages, colors, abilities, and language preferences approach registration desks and be greeted by PARs with “How can I help you today?” When patients in wheelchairs struggled to reach the palm vein scanner, PARs would gently lift and place their hands on the scanner. At every turn, I saw patients getting the care and courtesy they needed.
Lessons learned: Healthcare success requires thoughtful attention to people, processes, and technology. And that success starts at the registration desk with the tenacity, stamina, and care of patient access representatives.