Q: Where are ASCs falling short when it comes to technology?
Tina Mentz — We still do all the work instead of shifting more responsibility to patients. In this new era, patients are consumers of health care. They purchase their own coverage, pay premiums directly and submit wellness data to help reduce future premiums. Why can't we ask them to take more responsibility when it comes to the pre-admissions process? Cancellations still happen too often, because patients don't provide critical information, or don't get the testing they need, or fail to complete preps, or don't follow NPO guidelines. That leads to lost revenue for both the surgical facility and the surgeon.
Q: What's your vision for the future of online admissions?
Tina Mentz — I'd like to create a virtual registration process. Imagine if patients could complete their medical history online, entering all demographic and insurance information. Insurance verification would occur behind the scenes and communications would be sent to patients with their expected deductible and/or co-insurance. They'd then be prompted to either make a payment or set up a payment plan electronically. All of the other forms that we ask patients to sign or acknowledge on the day of surgery would be reviewed and acknowledged online. Mobile messages would direct patients as to what actions they need to take and when, and would tell them when to arrive. At the facility, they'd be greeted by a member of the clinical staff. Since all insurance and other issues would have already been taken care of, the entire staff would then focus on treating and caring for patients.
Q: What do you see as the main area of resistance?
Tina Mentz — We as leaders are often the obstacle. We tend to rely on labor as our solution when we need to focus more on technology. The ideal I describe is not that far away from being reality. The institution that we call health care cannot continue to survive in its current form. It's time to reinvent the space that we want as consumers, not healthcare systems or executives. We need to be willing to invest in innovation and technology to help achieve efficiencies long-term. Yes, we are a lower-cost alternative but we need to make investments that will help us remain this way.
Q: How do patients respond to automating online admissions?
Tina Mentz — We're all patients at some point. So, you tell me: Do you want to play phone tag and then eventually tell a stranger every personal detail about yourself in the middle of the grocery store? There's anonymity in providing your information via a secure online portal vs. saying it out loud to a stranger. People tend to be more truthful. Let's take it even further. If I need to tell you something, what's the best way to do it? Do you want me to call your home phone and leave you a voicemail? Do you want me to send you an e-mail or mail you a letter? Or do you want me to send you a text message? Let's not fool ourselves about what the most effective communication method is. People have 9-second attention spans. If we want to tell them something and have them respond to us, we need to start talking to them in 140 characters. This is the new reality we face.