Your receptionists, telephone operators, schedulers and other staff members-historically called “the front office”-are critical to your practice’s success. Consider that these employees must master the art of customer service while still processing incredibly detailed forms and ensuring that every transaction-and every component within each transaction-is correct and complete.
Add to this workload the number of information systems these staff members must master-the practice management, electronic health record, and telephone systems-and you clearly have a challenge on your hands to attract and retain people who can perform the job and do it well.
Maybe it’s time to start thinking of these critical employees in a new light; not simply as hourly workers but as directors of high-profile, business-critical functions. Consider the many responsibilities of your directors of:
• First Impressions-For patients, the “moment of truth” is defined through the impressions gleaned in their phone calls to and arrival at your practice. And who has the most direct influence over those impressions? Your staff defines their first impressions.
• Wait Management-Delays are inevitable in a practice, and the reception area is often full of patients who are waiting. In today’s fast-paced, e-commerce–influenced world, even a few minutes may seem like an eternity. Your front office staff must delicately manage the continuing parade of arriving patients while keeping those already checked-in updated about any delays.
• Registration-Accurate demographic and insurance information, when applicable, is essential to a successful revenue cycle for your patients and your practice. Even one keystroke can delay an insurance verification, putting everyone off schedule, which just puts more stress on other staff.
• Denial Prevention-Accurate and timely registration data translates into clean claims, resulting in fewer denials. Preventing denials not only improves cash flow but it also means less time spent reworking claims in the business office.
• Time-of-Service Collections-With the proliferation of high-deductible health plans, collecting from patients at the time of service is business-critical, and your staff can roll out this strategy effectively-if they are trained, encouraged, and enabled to do so.
• Sales-There’s no function in the front office more important than appointment scheduling; a full schedule with patients appropriately placed is the only way that your most precious asset-time-can be properly apportioned and maximized.
It’s not easy to find the right people for your front office’s elite corps of directors. Making a good hire isn’t easy, even in a down economy. Dig deeper when hiring employees to find the person who is a good fit with your concepts of service quality . . . someone who can be a director in the front office.