A medical practice’s reception is the first stop of every patient’s visit. Receiving a warm welcome is important to most patients. However, a friendly hello is not the only job of the front desk administrative assistant. There are a number of other responsibilities that need to be performed properly in order to have a smooth-running practice.
- Pick Up the Phone
You may not spend much time in reception to hear how calls are being answered. Is it a warm welcome or a tone indicative of annoyance? An easy way to find out is to call the office yourself or listen in on calls. You may learn a lot about how it feels to be a patient of your medical practice.
Other potential issues with how the phones are handled include callers being accidentally cut off. Does your staff have appropriate instruction on how to operate the phone system, including how to transfer calls, place callers on hold or use the intercom? Do they work from scripts, or are their responses to typical questions improvised? And, worst-case scenario, are they giving unauthorized medical advice?
Most EMR systems are sophisticated enough to properly schedule patient visits. Many practices allow for online scheduling, which helps free up the time of staff. However, your practice may place some scheduling responsibilities on the front desk administrative assistant.
Staff handling the schedule need to understand the difference between a routine visit, a complicated visit or a brief follow-up visit. They also should know the types of treatments common to each type of visit and how much time each might require. It is a good idea for front desk staff to have a list of triage-type questions that will help them identify the type of visit that will be needed. They also need guidance on when it might be reasonable to double-book or create time for special cases without throwing your daily schedule into disarray.
- Finding the Right Person
Not every person in a medical practice should work the front desk. Some staff members might be better in back-office positions or other parts of the practice. Although standard office skills — such as using scheduling software, retrieving patient records and bookkeeping — are a significant part of the front office skill set, the job also requires excellent people skills.
- Company Policies
Establishing and following written policies are always a best practice for running a business. This is no different from the policies in place at the front desk. There is a lot of responsibility at the front desk and it is an often unsupervised area of the practice. Written policies for the reception area should include procedures for:
• Handling money;
• Communicating patient financial responsibilities;
• Collecting copays;
• Handling missed, canceled or late appointments, as well as walk-ins, no-shows and emergencies;
• Dealing with outside physician-referred patients; and
• Addressing any lack of insurance referrals.
It is also important to understand that a written policy that does not involve training, discussion or enforcement is no policy at all.
- Lack of Proper Tools
How patients interact with the front desk staff can be determinative of whether those patients feel their needs are addressed properly. So, the reception staff needs to be professional and efficient — all the time. For that to happen, they need to have the tools for success, such as the right equipment, including an up-to-date phone system, and updated computers and software. You also need to ensure they clearly understand job expectations and are given the training and protocols needed to meet them.
Related Read: Three Keys to Providing Terrific Patient Service
A strong reception area brings value to your practice. Keeping patients satisfied with their experience is what brings them back. Now is a great time to assess reception and take the steps to enhance the patient experience to its full potential.
For more information, contact Kevin Omahen at [email protected] or 312.670.7444. Visit ORBA.com to learn more about our Health Care Group.