How efficient your front desk is one of the critical aspect of a successful medical practice. If you routinely see lines of patients, hear vocal complaints or simply feel like you have too many people working at the desk – but still aren’t getting results, then one or more of these strategies can help to improve your medical practice management.
7 Ways to Improve Front Desk Efficiency
1. Pre-Resister Patients: Whether you use email, a patient portal or even the old-fashioned post office, pre-registering patients ensures that paperwork is completed before the visit. By instructing patients to arrive with completed paperwork, you avoid bottlenecks and long wait times at your front desk and ensure your appointments proceed as scheduled.
Not every patient is going to follow directions and re-register, but the ones that do will help you run more efficiently. Preparing new patient paperwork packages during slow periods allows you to ship out actual papers quickly and providing patients with paperless option ensures that they can submit information before they even arrive. Providing registration paperwork via email also allows for more accurate data entry; information completed by computer is far easier for your staff to read than handwritten forms.
2. Consider Outsourcing Appointment Calls: If you receive high numbers of appointment calls, hiring a call center to automatically handle these can be less expensive and more efficient than hiring an additional staff member to deal with this task.
3. Streamline Patient Paperwork: Are you including forms in your registration and visit packets because you need the information, or because you always have used them? Some forms are not optional, but if you can streamline the amount of information you ask patients to complete, you can speed up the intake process at your front desk. Patient history and intake forms may be valuable to your physicians, but if they are not being used, it may be time to make a switch to a more efficient information gathering system.
4. Automate your Refill Process: Fielding prescription refill calls can be a full-time job if you leave it to your front desk. Your team will have to get the call, take down the information and then relay it to a nurse, who may have to call the patient back. Once the prescription details are in hand, someone has to relay it to the pharmacy and field follow up calls. Instead of going through this time-consuming process, set up a system that forwards prescription refill calls right to a nurse voicemail line. The greeting should let patients know what information is needed and advise that requests are handled at a specific time of day. One nurse can then review and handle the calls at one time and in a single batch. This can greatly reduce the amount of time your team spends handling prescription calls and the sheer number of people who are involved in the process.
5. Consider an Online Patient Portal or Inhouse Technology: A patient portal can significantly cut the number of calls your front desk receives and allow patients to request appointments, pay bills and even print results and records for themselves.
In the office, using tablets to allow patients to self-register or complete history forms can help expedite and streamline the process and boost your data accuracy as well. While not all your patients will embrace this system, enough will that you will see a reduction in the amount of calls and tasks your front desk is asked for in a typical week.
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6. Appoint a Specialist: If your practice deals with special situations or has specific paperwork that patients often need, appointing one team member to deal with this can cut down on confusion at the front desk. For a pediatrician, that specialist could be the one who coordinates paperwork and appointments for special needs patients (who often have specific reporting and paperwork needs for insurance and Medicaid). A surgeon might have one team member dedicated to walking patients through pre-surgical instructions and ensuring they have everything they need. Expecting your front desk staff to handle these tasks reduces efficiency and could even result patients who don’t get the paperwork or information they need; a specialist can be trained to help in these specific areas, boosting efficiency and patient satisfaction, too.
7. Create Templates: Use templates for letters and other communications and your front desk staff won’t have to come up with something new every time they communicate with a patient. Store templates on your network and your staff can more efficiently handle queries and concerns. Templates are more than time savers; they can also be used to ensure your patient messaging and branding is consistent across all systems.
Boosted efficiency does more than just save you time, it can reduce patient frustration, allow you to create a more organized workflow and improve patient satisfaction, too. Even small changes to your processes can yield results for your practice and ensure your patients are getting the attention and service they deserve.