Patient registration improvements range from the practical to unique amenities such as valet parking and waiting-room pagers.

A hospital registration area is like the foyer to a home. Patients’ experiences significantly impact their overall impressions of hospitals. How can a hospital improve the registration experience? HFMA members answered that question, which was posted recently on the HFMA Forum listserv. Here are the best ideas from that exchange:

The First Encounter: Preregistration

Respondents suggested that preregistration should include useful information that will improve the patient experience and assist patients with their financial responsibilities. For example, the preregistration process can include sharing arrival instructions and informing patients about their copayments and deductibles.

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Parking Lot Connection

Several ideas from the listserv responses concern patient arrival. For example, valet parking is a good way to create a good first impression. Other ideas include having volunteers in golf carts drive patients from their cars to the front door of the hospital and having someone with a tablet computer meet patients in the parking lot and launch the registration process right there.

Pleasant Greetings

Greeting patients warmly—with smiles and eye contact—is also important. At one respondent’s hospital, if patients or visitors need directions, a staffer walks those individuals to their destinations, rather than just explaining how to get there or pointing in the right direction.

Another mentioned that her hospital uses a pager to alert patients when their provider is ready to see them. The pager makes it unnecessary to call out names, protecting patient privacy.

Comfortable Spaces

Naturally, having a pleasant atmosphere in the registration area is important. Among the ideas raised to create a pleasant space is playing soft music; displaying fresh flowers and live plants; and offering coffee, water, and snacks.

One respondent noted that she is familiar with a hospital that has an actual shopping mall—with stores and a restaurant—right off the lobby.

Available Information

Patients and family members in the registration area are often scared and confused, so, in some cases, the best way to create a good impression is to provide information. Two listserv members mentioned that they provide welcome packets—including a letter from the CEO—to incoming patients. The packet can also include a physician directory, a copy of patients’ rights and responsibilities and contact numbers and e-mail addresses for department managers.

For more information on joining HFMA’s Forums and gaining access to the listserv, visit

Ed Avis is a freelance writer based in Oak Park, Ill., who contributes regularly to HFMA publications.

Publication Date: Monday, October 05, 2015