JPS Connection greatly improves application process for needy patients

Posted Thursday, Aug. 01, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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For years, a stagnant application process for JPS Health Network’s Connection program for charity cases had thousands of patients waiting long periods of time — some for months — to be enrolled.

Last year, for example, about 7,300 people in need of affordable medical care were caught in the backlog of applications, resulting in many becoming sicker, showing up at the emergency room or abandoning the process altogether because they could not provide the required paperwork, hospital officials said in a news release.

For a hospital whose slogan includes “Centered in Care,” JPS leaders recognized that the long waiting period was unacceptable. They set out to correct a failed system that had been created to serve the county’s uninsured patients and those insured but unable to pay deductibles and co-pays.

Officials did a complete overhaul of the application system, reducing the paperwork burden and the time delay, said David Salsberry, vice president and chief financial officer. He noted that one of the biggest obstacles was the requirement for applicants to produce a federal income tax return.

With many of the patients being homeless and others jobless, coming up with a tax return was not only impractical but impossible. While about 30 percent of applicants still are asked for the returns, JPS Connection is able to verify financial information in several other ways, including through food stamp and housing assistance records.

Streamlining the system and making it more patient-friendly has meant that 70 percent of applicants now are processed within a day, some within an hour, the news release said. The backlog this year has shrunk to 200.

Salsberry said he challenged his team to be as efficient as a car dealership. If car dealers could process a loan application in one hour, why couldn’t the hospital do it for a more precious commodity — relief for suffering people?

They obviously met that challenge, producing a remarkable outcome, one worthy of praise for a program that was highly criticized by this newspaper and others for past inefficiencies.

With results like that, JPS shows that it is fulfilling its mission: “Transforming healthcare delivery for the communities we serve.”

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