One year ago, Theresa Chwastek had never even heard of the Patient Access
to Healthcare Department.
Now, as the department's leader, Chwastek was recently recognized by
the National Association of Healthcare Access Management for having fulfilled
the requirements to become a "Certified Healthcare Access Associate."
Humboldt General Hospital launched the new department in March to coincide
with its expansion of its "Charity Care" program.
Previously, HGH's charity care policy helped patients whose household
income was at or below 144 percent of federal poverty guidelines. Beginning
March 1, 2013, the hospital expanded its Charity Care Program to 400 percent
of federal poverty guidelines.
With the expansion, a family of four with household earnings of more than
$90,000 a year may still qualify for partially free care.
In addition to overseeing the hospital's Charity Care program, the
Patient Access to Healthcare Department also provides estimated treatment
costs, checks insurance coverage, provides Medicare and Medicaid information
and assistance, reviews qualifying funding programs, provides application
help, reviews current accounts and sets up payment plans.
"Our job is to advocate for our patients at Humboldt General Hospital,"
said Chwastek. "We want to be here as a resource for them."
Chwastek initially joined HGH as a Radiology Department scheduler. Her
job was to smooth the process between patients' imaging needs and
the many insurance, scheduling and other glitches they might encounter
in order to get that imaging done.
"It worked so well," said Administrative Director Pam Wickkiser,
"that we knew an entire department of like-minded advocates would
be very welcome to our patients."
Wickkiser said Chwastek was an easy choice to lead the new Patient Access
to Healthcare Department.
"She is very patient-minded, very focused on doing what's right
for the individual," said Wickkiser.
"I just can't say enough about her dedication and her drive,"
she added. "Achieving this certification is just one example of how
Theresa leads the way for the rest of us."
As a Certified Healthcare Access Associate, Chwastek had to pass a national
certification examination in the field of patient access management.
The 115-question exam covered questions ranging from patients' pre-encounter
experience with the hospital, including their customer service experience,
customer assessment protocols, resource scheduling of equipment, services
and staff and pre-registration.
The body of the test focused on patient and family education, financial
considerations, payer authorization and verification of benefits, patient
check-in and registration, special needs of patients and benchmarking,
among other topics.
Chwastek said the exam was challenging but not overwhelmingly so.
"We have been working on acquiring all these knowledge bases,"
said Chwastek of herself and the three representatives whom she supervises
as team leader.
"So there weren't any surprises on the test. It was just a confirmation
that we're working in the right direction."
Chwastek said she is grateful for the chance to take the test; she will
now encourage her co-representatives to take the exam as well.
"The more knowledge we have, the more effective we'll be at helping
our community residents navigate the healthcare system," she said.
For more information on the Patient Access to Healthcare department or
to schedule an appointment, please call (775) 623-5222, ext. 1130, or
feel free to drop by anytime Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for
a personal consult.