Wisconsin health system trains registration and scheduling staff to conduct sometimes-difficult financial conversations with patients.
Training physician-clinic registration and scheduling staff to have financial conversations with patients has doubled the rate of point-of-service copay collections at Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin.
"It's been a big jump. From the mid-30s to almost 70%," says Jon Neikirk, executive director of revenue cycle at the three-hospital, Milwaukee-based system.
Financial Engagement Department Leads Change
Froedtert’s training initiative, launched a year ago, is modeled on the Healthcare Finance Management Association's Patient Financial Communications Best Practices.
One of the first steps in the initiative was to create a new revenue cycle office, the Financial Engagement Department. The three-member team has a director of financial engagement, a project manager, and a trainer, and its annual staffing cost is about $250,000, Neikirk says.
Creation of the Financial Engagement Department was necessary because Froedtert's revenue-cycle team did not have a significant leadership role for registration and scheduling staff.
"Registration staff and clinic leaders were not well-versed in financial communication," he says. "We needed to provide support to our health system leaders who managed the staff who were going to be having these conversations."
The Financial Engagement Department plays a key role in training and supervisory support. Its responsibilities include:
- Development of training material
- Providing supervisory reports for registration and scheduling staff leaders
- Teaching supervisors how to hold their staff members accountable
- Conducting training sessions, including remedial training
Training for registration and scheduling staff features e-learning courses as well as in-person instruction. The curricula was set in accordance with the HFMA Patient Financial Communications Best Practices.
Veteran registration and scheduling staff as well as new hires have been required to take as many as three financial communication e-learning courses, Neikirk says. The courses focus on the three clinical settings listed in the HFMA best practices:
- Time-of-service financial communications in the emergency department
- Time-of-service financial communications in settings outside the emergency department
- Financial communications prior to service for scheduling staff
Role-playing is a crucial element of in-person instruction for registration and scheduling staff because it helps frontline employees develop a comfort level with financial communications, he says.
It focuses on scripting for financial conversations such as a patient's copay responsibility and the availability of financial assistance. The Financial Engagement Department's director crafted the scripting. For the role-playing exercises, the Financial Engagement Department's trainer plays the role of patients.
Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care editor at HealthLeaders.