In many ways, the front desk of a physical therapy or occupational therapy practice acts as its command center. The efficiency and effectiveness of the organization suffers when front office operations fail-such as not returning patient phone calls promptly, scheduling appointments at optimal intervals, checking in and out patients, verifying insurance information, or collecting payment. A lack in your clinic's front office organization can erode patient trust, erode its reputation, and breed employee frustration if left unfixed for too long. Chaotic environments aren't conducive to receiving-or delivering-therapy care. In light of that, here are three great tips for running an organized front desk.
1. Take advantage of front office software.
It's a good thing that scheduling best practices have evolved since the days when patient appointments were penciled into a desk calendar. An entire week's worth of patient information could have been washed away by a single spilled glass of water. Today, however, we have intelligent scheduling software like PatientStudio that's not only water-resistant (all data is stored securely in the cloud with unique usernames and passwords), but also enables us to:
Automatic appointment reminders built into the system;
Fillable intake forms;
Integrated patient charts;
An easy drag-and-drop interface;
The use of automated eligibility checks; and
Simple and fast processing of payments.
In addition to having everything they need in one place, your front office staff will be able to complete their most important tasks more efficiently. In addition, automation features, like automated appointment reminders, allow for more time to be spent on activities requiring human interaction, such as welcoming patients and collecting balances. A scheduling system integrated with your EMR makes it easier to enter information about patients once, rather than having to enter it multiple times. Talk about an organizational breakthrough!
All of our users now have access to PatientStudio's enhanced patient chart integration. This helps front office staff stay even more organized, as they’ll be able to quickly disperse digital intakes to patients—and the information patients provide will automatically flow to the patient chart.
2. Establish clear (and reasonable) expectations for front-office organization, and adjust staffing accordingly.
We love technology (obviously), but technology doesn't replace open communication with your staff and setting clear expectations that everyone knows and aims to exceed. The foundation of successful office organization lies in the front office staff as well as the clinical staff. The first step is to outline all the front desk processes, including everything the front desk does starting with the first patient interaction to the last. After that, set goals for each. Examples include:
It is mandatory to return all patient calls and emails within one business day.
It is recommended that all insurance verifications take place at least 48 hours prior to the first appointment.
Before their first appointment, patients should receive and complete the intake paperwork as well as all relevant clinic forms (e.g., privacy policies).
Upon entering the clinic, patients should be greeted warmly, and they should be checked out warmly as well.
As part of the checkout process, patients should be asked to schedule their next appointment.
The patient balance should be collected at the time of service in at least 90% of cases.
Ask your team for feedback once you have defined your processes and goals. Over time, even small tweaks and changes can have a big impact on efficiency and organization. However, if automation cannot reduce their workloads enough to allow them to meet the goals you set, then hiring more help may be necessary. Burned-out staff members can't improve the organization of your front desk.
Want to know how to get your employees on board with new processes and expectations? Let them know how an organized front desk will improve their lives. By having a streamlined front office, you can increase patient volume and, hence, your practice's profitability. That could translate into bigger bonuses for you. Make sure the information you share is genuine and personal.
3. Ensure optimal front office organization through excellent training.
You might consider team training if your front desk is disorganized or your staff is failing to meet expectations. The format of this can be as formal or casual as you like (e.g., bringing in a consultant to provide on-going training on operational best practices or organizing a lunch 'n' learn led by one of your top staffers). Almost all of us strive to excel at our jobs and be engaged in them. Having a company culture that fosters autonomy and purpose, as well as striving for mastery, is hugely motivating, as we discussed in this blog. (On top of paying staffers a salary that is comfortable, of course.) Professional and personal development are necessary for mastery to occur.
If you find that you are having issues with front office organization or employee motivation, it is not difficult to ascertain why. Simply ask staff members (either individually or as a group) what they see as the breakdown in office procedure. If you cannot actually implement their request, just be prepared to acknowledge their opinions honestly. This type of conversation can establish an open dialogue and address potentially unmet needs because people want to be heard. Employees who are happy, motivated, and engaged are more likely to perform well.
In summary, here are three tips to help you run an organized front desk:
Get the most out of your front office software; ensure clear (and reasonable) expectations are set, and adjust staffing if necessary. Ensure excellent training and support are provided.
A well managed front desk can help ensure the success of your physical therapy or occupational therapy practice. If you would like to know how PatientStudio can help, please set up a demo today.