At the front desk of any medical office, first impressions are everything. Patients deserve to be treated with courtesy and respect, and if anyone on staff has issues with accuracy and deadlines, those will inevitably find their way to the back office and could easily impact revenue.
That in mind, hiring, training and retaining quality front-office employees should be a top HR priority at any practice. Long gone are the days when a front-desk person was merely a receptionist—he or she must have a versatile, computer-savvy skill set to handle an array of tasks.
Here’s what office managers and physicians should be looking for when hiring and evaluating front-desk staff.
- A positive, professional attitude. As the first point of engagement for patients, the front-office staff sets the tone for the entire practice—and rude and poorly informed is definitely not the way to go. A kind, courteous and helpful attitude should carry over from the initial phone call to the greeting at the time of the appointment. Going above and beyond for patients keeps them coming back and encourages referrals.
- Clear, consistent communication. Maintaining constant communication with patients cuts down on no-shows and cancelled appointments. Front-desk staff must also be able to discuss and educate patients on financial policies, deductibles, copays and patient balances. Upfront collections reduce outstanding patient balances, and our Patient Cost Estimator (PCE) will help you manage those individuals with high out-of-pocket expenses. Asking the right questions is imperative, especially if you have Medicare patients. With so many alternative insurance options, getting complete and accurate information is crucial. Front office staff should also be in constant communication with each other to limit mistakes, tackle unfinished tasks and address potential conflicts.
- Computer skills. This is an absolute necessity, as you’re relying on your front-office staff to maintain accurate information in your practice-management system.
- Continuity with patients. To avoid misinformation, every front office should develop a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs). This ultimately leads to less confusion and more efficient patient processing.
- Accountability. Have a checklist for every front-desk employee that details what each does on a daily basis. Among other things, this will help ensure that workloads are evenly divided. All front-office staff should be able to do the following:
- Verify all insurance coverage at least 48 hours prior to the appointment, so you have time to contact patients if their information is incorrect, incomplete or they have an open balance from a prior visit.
- Send appointment reminder and manage response reports on an automated system.
- Distribute the provider’s daily schedule.
- Notify all patients about HIPPA privacy policies and all required documents.
- Scan or photocopy patient insurance cards (primary, secondary, tertiary), along with a driver’s license and/or state identification.
- Ensure that forms for new patients are completed online. Utilizing a web-based secure form service expedites paperwork completion and execution prior to the visit. (AssuranceMD can assist with this process.)
- Discuss and collect all payments while the patient is present (copays, deductibles, etc.).
- Reconcile all payments made during the check-in/check-out process and maintain a financial ledger sheet.
- Set up recurring payment arrangements where the patient’s credit or debit card is automatically charged an agreed-upon amount each month. Card on File payment solutions provide an easy and cost effective way to collect patient payments for less. (AssuranceMD can work with you to find a merchant service provider that has this capability.)
Having a front-office staff that excels in each of these five areas will help your practice keep accounts receivable down and increase cash flow. Utilizing technology to enhance these steps can only benefit your practice and your patients.
Interested in learning more about online forms, appointment reminders or merchant services? AssuranceMD can help. Contact us.