How to Use Intake Data to Improve Post-Acute and Behavioral Health Customer Service

First impressions can have an outsized impact on the success or failure of any customer relationship. For home health, hospice, and behavioral health organizations alike, the ability to collect and analyze intake data from initial requests for help can have a significant influence on how well you serve your patients.

What Is Intake Data?

The term intake data refers to the information that a healthcare organization collects when a potential patient or one of their family members first reaches out for help.

The specific types of data that an organization requests during this initial contact can vary depending on a variety of factors, including type of service they provide, the typical demographics of their patient population, and the regulatory requirements of their industry.

Here are the three basic but extremely valuable pieces of intake data:

  • The patient’s name and age
  • Contact information for the patient or the family member who is acting on their behalf
  • The type of service that the patient needs

Acquiring the first two pieces of intake data is typically simple and straightforward. As we will discuss a bit later in this article, gathering the third can be more difficult than it might first appear – but it is essential for quality patient care.

The Benefits of Effective Data Collection

An organization’s ability to effectively collect, record, and disseminate intake data can yield both immediate and long-term benefits:

  • The immediate benefit of effective intake data collection and dissemination is that the patient can get the services they need in a timely manner.
  • The long-term benefits of properly collecting and recording intake data include being able to identify trends, assess performance, and improve an organization’s overall effectiveness.

To reap these benefits, it is essential that the right people are answering calls and collecting intake data.

Melynda Lee, who is a Consulting Director with SimiTree, emphasized that intake teams should be staffed by mission-driven professionals who possess excellent customer service skills.

“You want people who are organized and inquisitive, and who are willing to follow up to get the information you need so that you can provide the best service to your patients,” Lee said.

Enhancing Patient Care

In addition to recruiting skilled intake professionals, Lee noted, it is extremely important to train them on the best ways to obtain the data you need. This can be particularly valuable when it comes to the third piece of information that we mentioned earlier (identifying what the patient needs).

Many callers don’t know what to ask for, Lee said, because they’re often not aware of the scope of services that home healthcare providers, hospices, and behavioral health organizations offer.

“We can’t solve the patient’s problem until we know where the pain points are,” Lee said. “The staff member needs to be able to guide the conversation by asking open-ended questions in a prescriptive manner, so we can get to the root of the problem and provide the best solution.”

Quickly identifying patients’ needs while also educating callers about the range of options that are available to them promotes a variety of positive outcomes, including:

  • Clinical and medical teams will be prepared to provide the patient with the right services.
  • Patients and their loved ones will be satisfied with the care they receive.
  • Referral sources will appreciate that the organization properly cared for their patients.

Assessing Organizational Performance

In addition to ensuring that each patient receives timely and appropriate care, intake data can also provide home health, hospice, and behavioral health organizations with crucial insights into their overall effectiveness.

Laura Wilson, SimiTree’s Managing Director of Operations and Clinical Consulting, said that properly recorded intake data should be able to answer the following important questions:

  • How many calls, faxes, and emails is the organization receiving?
  • How many of these contacts result in a patient receiving services?
  • Once the initial contact is made, how long does it typically take for patients to receive services?
  • Of the calls that do not lead to a patient being taken under care, why did they not receive services?

The answers to these questions can help organizations adapt and improve in several key areas, such as:

  • Adjusting staffing levels for both the intake personnel and the professionals who provide direct patient care
  • Improving communication with referral sources to enhance awareness of the types of services the organization provides
  • Eliminating bottlenecks and clarifying misunderstandings that may be preventing patients from getting the help they need

“Ideally, there should be a smooth continuum of care,” Wilson noted. Collecting the right intake data and getting it to the right people within the organization advances this objective by preventing information from becoming siloed.

Read more on how to increase your home care, home health, and hospice admissions quickly.

Read more about the barriers to behavioral health treatment that prevent patients from receiving the care they need.  

How SimiTree Can Help

If your organization has room for improvement in how you use intake data to improve customer service, SimiTree is here to help. Our team of experts can provide actionable insights and guidance in several key areas, including strategy, training, processes, and technology.

Examples of our data-focused services include:

Contact us today to learn more.


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