Patient registration can be improved with practical ideas like providing useful information and directions to unique amenities such as valet parking and pager systems in waiting rooms.

A hospital registration area is like the foyer to a home. The experience visitors receive there may significantly impact their overall impression of the hospital. 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

Two respondents suggested that preregistration is an important step in creating a pleasant registration experience. The preregistration should include useful information that will improve the patient experience and assist patients with their financial responsibilities, such as providing instructions for arrival and providing patients with information about their copayments and deductibles.

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 the patients warmly—with smiles and eye contact—is also important. One respondent said that in her hospital, if patients or visitors need directions, a staffer walks those individuals to their destination, rather than just explaining how to get there or pointing them in the right direction. Also, patients should be moved quickly to a registrar, so that they perceive that their waiting time is short.

One respondent mentioned that her hospital uses a pager system to alert patients when it is time for them to be served. The pager makes it unnecessary for staff 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 respondents 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, contact numbers and e-mail addresses for managers in each department, and other phone numbers to call if there are concerns or problems.

Understanding Staff

Interactions between staff and patients and family members play a key role in establishing comfort levels. Staff should be well educated on hospital matters, and they should carefully explain the paperwork being presented, rather than rushing patients to provide their signatures. The staff should also remember that many patients and visitors may be hearing impaired, so they should speak clearly, enunciate well, and look directly at the person when speaking.

Sometimes patients or family members have concerns that need to be brought to another level. One way to address these instances is to establish a dedicated phone line to handle patient complaints or concerns that routes directly to key executives.

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: Wednesday, October 07, 2015