Have you ever heard of patients that say they love their doctor but hate having to deal with the provider’s staff? Often times practices make the mistake of putting the employee with the longest tenure (or often the least amount of back office skills) at the front desk, regardless of their people skills. Our Centricity billing and EPIC billing practices have clearly shown that patient satisfaction and retention can be permanently damaged when the wrong person or people occupy your front desk. This really matters to patients!
Each practice should take a close look at your front desk staff. Have you done that lately? How do your patients respond to the front desk? Are they personable, kind, and professional? Are they serving the best interests of your practice while making patients feel welcomed and cared for? Consider the following gaffes and their fixes.
- My desktop is more important than you. When the front desk person refuses to look up and acknowledge the patient.
- My attitude or expression is a warning, don’t ignore it. When the front desk person wears a permanent scowl to discourage patients from asking questions.
- You are wasting my time with this call. When the front desk person shows his or her impatience on the phone.
- Stop interrupting our office gossip. When the front desk staff keeps laughing or talking while ignoring a waiting patient.
- My fashion, personal, social media, lunch crises are more important than your medical need. When the front desk staff is obvious about putting their own needs before the patient’s.
Refusing or failing to greet patients with a kind, upbeat attitude should be unacceptable, regardless the reason. Doctors and administrators must pay attention to what’s happening. If your present staff can’t maintain a professional, friendly approach to patients, they should be moved. Staff your front desk with your best, most personable members. Don’t overload your front desk staff with responsibilities that take away from greeting and helping patients. Provide phone back up so in-office patients get priority. Refuse to tolerate inattention.
- This paperwork is more important than you. When staff insists on getting information over giving care.
- Your privacy is not important to me. When staff asks for personal details within hearing range of others.
- I’ve got more important things to do, keep yourself busy with these documents. When staff shoves intake paperwork at a patient and insists they complete it before paying attention to them.
Insist that every front desk activity cease when a patient walks in the door. Refuse to allow staff to hand paperwork to a patient until they’ve been properly greeted and welcomed. Refuse to discuss personal information at the front desk. Provide a space with auditory privacy or give the patient options for giving information in writing or electronically. Give constant reminders that no task is as important as giving attention to patients.
- My complaints are more important than you. When staff insists on sharing their personal gripes with patients.
- My gossip about patient so-and-so is too juicy to worry about who else hears. When staff discusses other patients within hearing range of those present.
- My gossip about the office staff and doctors is too juicy to worry about who else hears. When staff discusses office issues or personal grievances in the hearing of patients.
- I can’t find your records, what was your name again, it’s somewhere here in this stack. When staff is organizationally challenged. Disorganization is a quick pathway to losing patient trust.
Have and enforce clear policies against office gossip. Staff who tend to gossip should have no patient-facing responsibilities. Listen to staff complaints yourself. Have a complaint box that you actually read and show attention to. Staff who feel you are considering their needs will be better at considering patient needs. Disorganization may be the result of overwhelming responsibility – review the number of tasks assigned and adjust as needed. If the workload is manageable but the staff member is still overwhelmed, reassign him or her to areas he or she can better handle.
- I can’t find your co-pay amount so let’s forget about it this time. When the staff member doesn’t want to take the time to look up the information.
- You need to pay now and I don’t care if it embarrasses you. When staff members insist on handling patient financial matters in a gruff or public way.
- I don’t care what your statement or insurance says, you need to pay. When front desk staff won’t take the time to explain the billing or research the patient’s concerns.
- You need to pay the past-due amount or the doctor won’t see you. When policy demands that past-due amounts be paid.
Create a policy that clearly states what kind of payment conversations to have at the front desk. If possible, provide a way for patients to resolve issues with other personnel away from the front desk. Use card-on-file to eliminate the need to pay at the front desk and to resolve any past-due amounts. Automated payment plans are another great option.
Remember most of all that patients are people. They have bad days, they forget, they have opinions, they may not want to be here, they just want to be treated with kindness and respect. If your staff will pay close attention to those needs you’ll have happier patients and less stressful days. Take the time it takes to train, evaluate, and re-train. If your operation is smooth at the front desk, your Centricity billing and EPIC billing practice have a better chance to operate smoothly all the way through.
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