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Advance Team
They may operate behind the scenes, but Access Services staff are very much partners in patient care

blank Ed Norton
At the call center, Access Services staff, back to front, from left: James Chavis, Victoria Johnson, Kizzy Pitts, Wendy Nolan, Ateya Barnes, Tyrice Williams, Michelle Matarazzo (seated), Rene Wilder, Tamara McVay, Patrice Luckett, Linda Ishmael-Hosein and Lavonne Coe.

For outpatient clinics across Hopkins Medicine, Access Services schedules appointments, registers patients and ensures financial coverage for medical services. Everything is done out of one central location, and everything is done in advance.

 “By the time the patient arrives for the appointment,” says John Lowery, department director, “accurate registration data have been collected for our billing production units, and all documents and authorizations are in place. The patient simply checks in and sees the physician.”

Now, with momentum building to open wide the doors to referring physicians and new patients, this core services operation, which currently supports some 20 clinical services, is increasingly seen as an efficient, uniform means of scheduling timely appointments and streamlining complex front-end processes.

When patients make that first call, they often form a lasting impression of Johns Hopkins. “Many are anxious and frightened,” explains Patrice Luckett, who oversees appointments and referrals. “Their physicians may have told them that Hopkins is their last resort.”

Carefully schooled in customer service, Luckett’s staff knows how to respond. Meticulously trained, continually coached and evaluated, they register and schedule nearly 300,000 appointments a year.

The financial clearance unit handles about 260,000 patient accounts each year. Staff determines patients’ eligibility and insurance coverage for medical services. They get services authorized, including authorizations for those enrolling in clinical trials. “We have to make sure the provider and the facility receive payment for services rendered,” says unit manager Lavonne Coe. “Plus, we want our patients to know what to expect. We don’t want them getting bills they weren’t counting on.”

Considering the sheer volume of calls and ever-growing insurance complexities, work can be stressful for Access Services staff, which numbers nearly 100. But Luckett and Coe continually recognize and reward them for their contributions. “The same kind of customer service we extend to patients, we extend to staff,” says Luckett.

The department’s clinic clients are spread across the medical enterprise (mostly at Hopkins Hospital and Bayview Medical Center, with growing numbers at Green Spring Station and White Marsh). Staff must be familiar with four main registration systems and numerous insurance plan Web sites. Some are required to have as many as 20 system passwords.

For the future, Lowery would like to reduce the number of systems. He’d also like Access Services to be the “go-to” group for patient registration. “We want to capture every new patient and get that insurance information, because those registrations drive everything downstream.” Finally, he’d like to schedule appointments along departmental lines, not locations. “That’s how we can really level the demand and improve patient access to Hopkins’ medical services.”

—Anne Bennett Swingle

 

 

Johns Hopkins Medicine

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