When I first began working in healthcare part of my role included traveling out to the company’s individual practices to teach CPR. Within moments of walking into a practice, my co-instructor and I already formed the bulk of our opinion of a practice. How friendly was the front desk staff? Were they ready for us to set up our mannequins or would we have to wait until someone made arrangements? Some practices seemed to flow effortlessly and were prepared for our visit while others struggled with communication or seemed to be too busy with other tasks, leaving us to stand around until eventually we were able to proceed.
Patients similarly begin to form an opinion of your practice as soon as they walk in. Their interaction with your front desk team sets the tone for the rest of the visit. Serving as a liaison between patients and medical providers, reception staff play an important role in the delivery of excellent patient care.
Improving efficiencies, enhancing workflows, and automating administrative tasks can help free up receptionists to do what they do best: communicate directly with patients. Improving your front desk workflows will help ensure your patients get their questions answered, check-in, and out in a timely manner, and receive the information they need.
Four Ways to Improve Efficiency in Front Desk and Administrative Workflows
- When emergencies hit and you have found your practice is understaffed, it is easy for things to fall behind. However, if your staff is cross-trained it is much easier for your practice to run smoothly. Cross-training staff helps individuals better understand how their role fits within the organization. Understanding each person’s role also helps employees step in and complete tasks to help the team when needed. Dr. Werschler owns several practices and even has his employees cross-trained at different locations to expand the number of employees that can be called on in case of an emergency. This also allows for greater flexibility. Additionally, Dr. Wershchler noted that “cross-training helps create a more positive work environment when implemented as a natural occurrence of someone’s daily, weekly or monthly job duties.” Cross-training staff to perform both clinical and administrative duties will strengthen your team’s ability to work together and if needed, more efficiently with fewer people.
- Enhancing the communication skills of your front line staff with employee development and training opportunities strengthens your entire practice. As liaisons between patients and providers, front desk workers must have a thorough understanding of your practice and the services you provide. Back when I was doing CPR classes for St. Elizabeth Physicians, I remember being highly impressed with one of the practices I visited. The front desk staff already had a room ready for us and seemed highly attentive. Although technically they did not need a CPR certification for their role, they asked to be apart of the session. I later learned that this office offered lunch-and-learn sessions where a provider would take the time during lunch once a month to give a presentation on one of the medical procedures the practice offered and allowed time for questions at the end. Not only did this empower the staff with a more developed understanding of services their patients might have questions about, these lunches also provided a platform to strengthen the relationships between coworkers. How could improved communication benefit your practice?
- Improving the standardization of processes both reduces errors and improves efficiencies. From developing call scripts to training staff on frequently asked questions, building standardized tools to support your administrative team gives them a strong foundation to work from. It also helps reduce training time for new staff and ensure patients get the right information the first time. It also sets clear standards for patient communication and care for the entire team. Take Dr. David Standaert with the Kirklin Clinic of the University of Alabama, for example. Dr. Standaert noticed that the clinic had a high patient volume with long wait times and no current room management system in place. A crude excel sheet was being used to mark which rooms were occupied, however, the staff often noticed that this information was incorrect and the rooms were in fact open. This lead to distrusting the system and staff trying to manage room availability their own way without any valid information to go off of. To rectify this, Dr. Standaert and his team invested in room management tool software to standardize the process. The results? Not only did the Kirklin Clinic successfully begin to accurately track room availability, but their revenue also increased as they began using available rooms more frequently. They found that “902 additional patient visits and 114 more clinic sessions occurred after the implementation of the room management tool.” What systems might your practice be missing? How can standardizing processes bring more patients to *your* practice?
- Automate tedious and time-consuming administrative tasks that demand too much staff time. A small investment in technology implementation and staff training can pay off big time in reducing staff hours needed for insurance eligibility verification, general patient communications, and more. Freeing up front line staff allows them to do what they do best, interact one-on-one with patients. For example, Vital Interaction’s software can be utilized to take care of administrative tasks and follow-ups so that your front desk staff can be more available for higher priority patients. If a patient is in a rush and does not have time to schedule a follow-up appointment then it is normally up to your staff to manually follow up. However, Vital Interaction is set up to do this for you in addition to sending out pre-appointment reminders, providing Patient Chat where patients can receive automated texts with instructions for their upcoming appointments, and also text quick questions instead of calling, and much more. How could your practice leverage the power of automation to save time and focus on patients?
Implementing Automation: Where to Begin
Before you change workflows or implement new tools or policies, ask your team what their biggest challenges are. Identify current workflows that could be improved and training opportunities that would directly impact the delivery of care on behalf of your patients.
Once you’ve identified the biggest pain points from your staff and the opportunities for efficiency and improvement, create an action plan with a clear timeline for implementation. Get staff members involved by letting them lead individual projects and training opportunities. Together, your team can improve workflows and implement efficiencies to help enhance patient care and reduce administrative costs.