If you’ve wondered why so much paperwork is needed when you visit a hospital, here’s a little insight. This question was asked anonymously by a reader:
Q: I went to Lawrence Memorial Hospital recently for a CT scan. I’d just had one three months earlier. And yet, I had to fill out all of the paperwork again. Why can’t they print out what I gave them three months ago and let me review it? Or, something that makes more sense?
A: According to Stacy Cope, director of patient accounts at LMH, there are multiple reasons behind the questions that are asked in a hospital registration interview, and most are driven by legal issues and insurance payers.
For example, Cope said, Medicare requires LMH to ask the same questions at each registration, even if the registrations are only hours apart. In Medicare’s and other payers’ eyes, the prior information is irrelevant and doesn’t apply to current circumstances.
A new federal anti-identity theft law now makes it necessary to identify each patient being registered, which usually requires showing an official ID and verifying address and phone numbers. In addition, patients’ insurance and demographic information do frequently change, and the accuracy of the information is more important than ever, not only to ensure proper billing and payment, but also as we move toward the sharing of electronic medical records and instant access to data.
“The fact is there is just no way for us to know at the time of registration whose circumstances have changed and whose haven’t,” Cope said. “Therefore, we must ask each time.”
Also, Cope said, industry standards show that patients coming to a hospital are usually anxious and will agree everything is correct when asked to review a printout of their information. Usually, registration staff do have access to most prior patient information and attempt to confirm as much as possible.
“Compliance with regulations is more and more involved and there are penalties to providers for not following them,” Cope said. “While we regret it may result in inconvenience for both the patient and hospital staff, we do not have the option of changing or ignoring it.”