You only get one chance to make a first impression; for your patients, that first impression will come from your front desk team. When many people think of the receptionist or front desk staff at a doctor’s office, they, unfortunately, often think of the stereotypical movie figure – which is often obstructionist and makes a difficult visit even more challenging.
But doctors know that the front office staff are the face of the office, and it’s as essential to have them be friendly, skilled, and efficient as any other staff member. The front desk staff plays an important role in helping patients understand their plans and making the office a more pleasant place to visit. Here are some of the ways this key position can make a difference.
First impressions happen quickly, and a new patient may get their impression of your practice within minutes of arriving from talking with the front desk staff. A pleasant interaction will likely make the patient more open to sharing key information and make them more likely to return.
While today, many patients are assigned to a specific practice by insurance, making the office a welcoming place and spreading good word of mouth is still critical. Those first moments of courtesy and ease of intake may be the key to spreading the good word of mouth about your practice.
A medical visit is typically a stressful event for a number of reasons. Even if a patient is coming in for a well visit, they may be concerned about test results. Doctors can’t change that fact, but they can affect everything surrounding the visit. Establishing ways to make your patients comfortable will make people more comfortable in your organization.
The more your patients trust you, the more likely they will schedule regular visits and recommend your organization to others. It can be tricky to ensure your front desk staff has proper training, so many offices rely on a higher authoritative standard and attaining AAPC certification to guarantee a proper standard of care.
Meeting Patient Expectations
Patients come into a new medical practice with basic expectations, such as a listening ear, quality care, and clear instructions on addressing their health.
The first impression the patient gets of whether your office will meet this standard comes from the front desk staff – an inattentive receptionist or one who seems to overrule their concerns will leave a bad first impression and a lack of confidence.
Ideally, the front desk staff should be welcoming and give your patient a clear impression of what they can expect from the appointment and an ongoing healthcare relationship.
Revenue Cycle Management (RCM)
Billing is a key part of any medical practice and often creates the most conflict with patients. Not only can it be an added stressor when patients are grappling with a diagnosis, but it’s a three-party affair – the medical office, the patient, and the insurance company that will provide reimbursement.
A front desk staff that uses a state-of-the-art RCM system will reduce errors and minimize denials from the insurance company. This is key to keeping the office running smoothly and ensuring that patients don’t find themselves haggling over the bill.
Handling Stressful Situations
A doctor’s office is ideally trying to be a safe space for patients and their family members, but with medical diagnoses will always come stressful situations. Doctors will deal with patients at the most stressful times of their lives and sometimes comforting family members when they’re emotionally overwhelmed.
It’s important that the front office staff approaches them with sensitivity and works to keep them calm. A front office staff that seems unsympathetic or overly businesslike can cause a tense situation to deteriorate – especially if they seem like they’re only trying to get the person out of there to move on to the next case.
Create a Positive Face
It’s important to think of your front desk staff as the cover for your office. Much like a good cover can sell people on a book, an effective front desk staff can sell your health care office as a safe place for patients. This can make an enormous difference in the quality of care.
A good front desk staff is key for first impressions and can provide patient comfort and help to explain procedures and expectations. They’re key for smooth billing processes and are critical when dealing with stressful situations. Ensuring your front desk staff is effective is the first step to creating a skilled healthcare practice.