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What once was called the Admitting Department is far more than a doorway for patients at the University of South Alabama Medical Center and USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital.
It’s often the first impression of the hospitals. It’s the place where records have started that stick with patients throughout their stay. It’s the first check that the planned test or treatment matches the diagnosis. It’s a link to financial help and social services. It’s also a friendly face to help them find their way.
Before long, it will likely be the point of contact for scheduling all sorts of appointments and procedures. And to encompass all that, it now has a new name: Patient Access.
“Our staff members are not doctors or nurses, but we are a serving department,” says Manager Cathy Faison. “Patients don’t come here to see us, but we enable everything they need.”
Faison, who has been part of the department since data was entered by typewriter, is pleased to see the name change. “When people think of Admitting, they worry,” she said. “They worry about being sick, about being taken upstairs for treatment. They worry."
A name change is beneficial for that alone, she says. A few other changes will be very visible to patients, she says. For example, they might notice new logo-embossed blazers and other apparel that clearly identify staff.
They might very well notice the convenience of having admitting staff members on hand in pediatrics, in surgery and in labor and delivery — ready to check them in without a stop at the front door.
From a patient’s perspective, most of the changes are behind the scenes. Whether on the floor or in the front office, Patient Access personnel are now charged with creating the digital admitting record that will be used throughout the patient’s stay.
That’s part of the USA Health System’s new Unity project, designed to create just one record per patient, wherever in the system they receive care. Patient Access will also handle pre-certification issues, financial concerns, drug assistance and referrals to social services.
The first steps are also in progress to give Patient Access responsibility for scheduling so that patients need only two phone numbers, one for all types of appointments and one for the hospital.
All the changes are designed to make the hospital experience more pleasant and less stressful for patients, Faison says. “Patients want convenience and accuracy,” she says. The new Patient Access department is designed to facilitate just that.
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