By Deborah Lemnah

You’ve probably read and heard a lot over the past year about how Brattleboro Memorial Hospital’s Emergency Department (ED) expansion and renovation project improves patient care. While the Patient Registration staff does not provide medical services, we do play an important role in helping patients have a good ED experience.

Before the renovation, ED staff registered their own patients. When you consider 14,000 people visit our emergency department every year, this becomes a difficult task to perform thoroughly while simultaneously providing emergency medical care. To register a patient our registration staff has to undergo intensive training. They admit patients to every hospital department — including radiology, lab services, and surgery — and now the ED. (As large a number as 13,000 visits sounds, it’s just 14 percent of the 91,412 patient registrations we did during the last fiscal year!)

Deborah Lemnah
Deborah Lemnah

When designing the new BMH entrance it was configured so the reception staff greets people whether they are entering the main hospital or the Emergency Department. This design element enables the administrative staff to take care of the business aspect of a hospital visit and allows the ED staff to focus on providing treatment. Whether a patient walks in or is brought in by ambulance, we quickly get their name and date of birth. This “stat registration” enables us to check the BMH database and see if they’ve have been a patient in the hospital previously. We then put an armband on the individual to identify they are a patient and inform them someone will visit them once they are in an exam room to complete the registration. We might also get them a wheelchair or warm blanket if needed. Then they are expedited to the triage staff to evaluate their medical needs.

Once the patient has been moved to a room in the ED and has been seen by a clinician, a member of our registration staff visits to complete the registration process. We want to make sure all of our information is accurate and up to date, including address, contact information, insurance coverage, and who is their primary care provider. If they don’t have insurance coverage we can discuss programs that might be available to help them. This is also an opportunity to provide the patient with information about consent, advance directives, and to let them know about our affiliation with Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire.

Each patient remains our concern long after they are discharged from the ED. As you might imagine, there are a multitude of insurance companies we deal with, and each company has a countless number of policy options. Over time, our registration staff members become experts at reading the information on insurance cards. We know that submitting claims correctly saves the patient from having to deal with insurance issues following their hospital visit. So our goal is to accurately input the necessary information to eliminate potential errors.

This new registration process has only been in place for a couple of months, but the immediate feedback has been very positive. Patients and their families really appreciate the level of privacy afforded by doing the complete registration in one of the rooms rather than near the waiting area. Everyone feels more relaxed as well, having had their medical concerns already addressed by the clinicians before the in-depth registration is completed.

Should you or a loved one ever need the services of the Emergency Department at BMH, we look forward to providing you the excellent care you require.

Deborah Lemnah is the Patient Reception Services Manager at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital. She can be reached at

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