With the start of the new year, Sampson Regional Medical Center introduced its new Rapid Applications for Medical Programs (RAMP) tool which is a web-based tool that helps the hospital screen patients for financial assitance.
Prior to the hospital having this resource, Sampson County’s Department of Social Services (DSS) was contracted to obtain medical assistance for hospital inpatients and skilled nursing patients.
“I have to commend the county’s DSS because we have worked with them for many years and have had a very good relationship with them,” said Jerry Heinzman, chief financial officer for the hospital.
However, as things have progressed and stays in the hopital have become shorter for patients, both the hosital and DSS acknowledged that improvements needed to be made in order to change with the times and to better care for hospital patients.
“The DSS provided service Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. However, the length of hospital stays has been decreasing over the years, getting shorter and shorter. If you come in and have a baby one day, you can be going home the next afternoon,” explained Heinzman. “We just found that more and more patients were being admitted and discharged before they could be seen by a DSS worker.”
Additionally, there was nothing the hospital could do to help the situation. “Until recently, only DSS employees could take a medical assitance application,” Heinzman noted.
Solutions to the hospital’s predicament began to be offered about a year ago. “Third party software became available, featuring automated systems that could be used to take applications, track approvals and denials, etc,” said Heinzman. “So we began exploring those options.”
According to Heinzman, around the same time that the hospital recognized their need to be able to take applications seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, DSS officials expressed interest in reducing its staff at the hospital as they needed more resources available in their own office.
With new technology available and DSS on board, the hospital figured it was the appropriate time to transition into taking over the job of helping patients obtain medical assitance. “We’re the ones taking the applications now, but they’re still being processed by the DSS,” Heinzman explained. “Rather than being on site taking the applications, DSS is now focused on having more resources processing applications which is a great thing for all involved. Overall, we saw this transition as a win-win for both us and the DSS.”
With the new RAMP tool, the hospital can now screen patients for county and state financial assistance programs. “There are state funds available for specific groups that many may not be aware of. For instance, there are financial assistance programs especially for the blind, the disabled, pregnant women. There’s a breast and cervical cancer treatment program,” explained Cindy Muffet, director of registration for the hospital.
RAMP also allows the hospital to screen for its own financial assitance program. “We offer financial assistance here from the hospital. We’ve loaded those guidelines and requirements into the system and now can take applications, even in the event that a patient does not qualify for other medical assitance,” explained Heinzman.
Not only is RAMP a win-win for the hospital and DSS, but its also a win-win for the hospital and its patients. “The benefits for us at the hospital are that we have access to more current information about the applications, and we get to see the impact the new system is having, how it’s helping the patients,” said Heinzman.
“Of course, this is really all for the patients,” continued Heinzman. “We’re first and foremost focused on being patient-oriented.”
“It’s really helpful to patients because if they’re already dealing with a medical issue, that’s enough of a hardship. By helping them find financial assistance, we can hopefully help them avoid the additional harship that goes along with being turned over to a collection,” said Amber Cava, the hospital’s director of marketing and community relations. “Many of them may not realize what’s available to them and we have a responsibility to our patients to help them.”
Since RAMP became effective only last month, the hospital is still getting used to the new tool and how to best use it. “We’re still learning,” said Muffet.“The DSS has been really helpful, providing training and information for us.”
As the hospital continues to work through this transition, they are increasingly hopeful about this new venture.
“It’s new and it’s a change, but the more we talk with patients about it, the more response we’ll get,” said Muffet.
Heinzman believes that eventually all kinds of patients will be helped by RAMP. “As we move forward, we see an opportunity to start taking applications on surgical, emergency, and other outpatients to help them find assitance with their medical bills.”
The hospital is excited to be able to serve its patients in this new, more effective way. “I would much rather help patients with their bills than have to turn them over to a collection,” shares Heinzman.
Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 123 or via email at email@example.com.