The Importance of Patient Access Support Solutions for Rural Communities


Healthcare is human care. At the heart of every patient-provider encounter is a unique individual trying to solve health challenges and live their best life. It’s a relationship built on trust and accessibility. But with the growing complexity of our healthcare system, encounters have become less personal while healthcare overall has become more difficult to navigate. In rural communities the issues are compounded by less choice, longer wait times, and a digital divide.

Healthcare in Rural America

Forty-six million Americans live in rural areas.[1] According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these individuals are typically older and sicker than those living in larger communities, and they have a higher risk of dying from cancer, heart disease, stroke, and accidents.[2] Access to high-quality, timely care is a significant factor leading to this disparity; there are fewer than 40 primary care physicians per every 100,000 people living in rural communities.[3]

While many initiatives are underway to address rural healthcare challenges, there are things rural providers can do to improve the patient experience and protect their bottom line, beginning with implementing more consumer-centric patient access options.

How patient access support solutions can help in rural communities

Patient access solutions – which encompass scheduling, order management, pre-authorization and eligibility, appointment reminders, screening, and compliance – can improve convenience and access to care for rural patients as well as speed up encounters and enhance overall patient satisfaction.

The following are common examples where providing patient access support can make a difference.

Improved scheduling processes with empowered live registrars

Overall, patients claim to place a high value on being able to schedule their own appointments online. However, research shows that patient adoption has been low.[4] In rural communities, digital technology adoption is further impacted by access to reliable broadband internet service. This “digital divide” impacts approximately 19 million people in the United States.[5]

Additionally, long wait times for appointments is a common issue. More than half of adults surveyed say they have to wait more than a week to get an appointment, and 25% say they have skipped or delayed care because it takes too long.[6]

Providing empowered live registrars through a dedicated call center meets people where they are at with compassionate and proactive assistance.

Complete eligibility and verification processes before the patient arrives

Today, most eligibility and coverage verification are done manually by searching payer websites or calling payers to get the information. Besides being time-consuming, this process is prone to error and the information gained is often inaccurate or incomplete. This can lead to denials for the provider and unexpected bills for the patient.

Using dedicated staff to complete eligibility and verification processes in advance of a patient encounter allows for better data collection and quality control.

Implementing patient access support solutions

Managing an efficient, patient-centric patient access process can be challenging for rural hospitals struggling with staffing shortages but the benefits are tangible, including:

  • Higher accuracy rate during registration
  • Lower no-show rate for patient appointments

When choosing a patient access partner, it is important to look for the following capabilities:

  • Focus on the patient. The partner chosen should understand the importance of the patient experience and embrace a culture that puts the patient at the center.
  • Ease of implementation. In these challenging times, healthcare organizations don’t have the money or the staff to manage large, complex implementations. The best partners are those that have a streamlined implementation process and the ability to connect to the provider’s EMR.
  • Easy-to-use phone system. The right partner should be able to customize an IVR with messaging and connections that simplify the experience for the patient, getting them to the right person faster.
  • Quality monitoring. Choosing a partner that consistently monitors calls is important to ensure a positive patient experience and regulatory compliance. This should include scripting and coaching for agents and one-call resolution.
  • The right partner will monitor SLAs through comprehensive data analytics, allowing them to share results with the provider. This is the only way to ensure a positive return on investment.
  • Adherence to best practices. Patient access processes can be highly complex and require an equally high level of expertise to achieve optimal results. The right partner will develop their patient access processes around industry best practices and will work hand in hand with the provider, acting as a consultant, to set standards for both internal and outsourced staff.

Next steps

Rural Americans increasingly live in fear of not being able to access the care they need when they need it. Providers can help make it easier for them to navigate the care system by ensuring an effective, convenient patient access experience. Doing so sets the stage for a positive patient engagement.







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