Are You Ready for 2020?
Now is the time to evaluate front desk activities
A front desk is a busy place: new-patient registrations, patient check-ins and payment collections are just a few of the many activities that happen before a patient steps foot in an examining room.
Come January, many front-desk personnel and supporting billing staff will be facing additional challenges: new insurance plan details and high deductible re-sets. This administrative double-whammy can severely disrupt office flow and cause frustration for both staff and patients. Now is the time to get ready for the year ahead and potentially avoid disruptions in January.
Where should you start? Below are five tips to help your front desk get ready for 2020:
1. Evaluate the efficiency of current front desk performance
If you haven’t done so lately, track how long new patient registrations and established patient check-ins take. Is it two to four minutes per patient? Or it more like five to ten? If your front desk is running efficiently, the check-in process should only be a few minutes. If you observe long wait times or consistent lines at the front desk, it’s time to find out why and resolve those issues.
2. Let all staff know that a smooth patient experience is essential
Unfortunately, some offices have unintentionally developed boundaries between front and back-office operations. Successful revenue cycle management involves all operational staff. Cross-training back-office employees to help at the front desk during busy periods may help alleviate patient wait-times.
3. Confirm you’re maximizing available time-saving tools in your software
Most EHR and practice management software is updated regularly, and it can be challenging to keep up with all the new features. Talk to your vendor and explore technology options that could make the front-desk check-in faster. Ask questions such as: Is it possible to verify insurance automatically? Is credit-card on file available to make payments more quickly? Is there an option to display demographic information to the patient in order to make verification more accurate? Are there alerts that can bring attention to past-due balances?
4. Make collecting co-pays, past-due balances and estimated deductible amounts a priority
Evaluate workflows to confirm the front desk has the information it needs to collect any payment due while the patient is in the office. According to a survey by Black Book™, “83% of physician practices under five practitioners said that slow payment of high-deductible plan patients (is) their top collection challenge.”1 If you are not doing so already, consider asking for deductible payments at the time of service. Confirm that any price estimates given to patients are clearly communicated to the front desk, so there is no confusion while the patient is in the office.
5. Investigate patient self-service technologies such as kiosks
Self-service kiosks are becoming commonplace in physicians’ offices for good reason. There are many benefits, such as:
- Timely check-ins of three-minutes or less
- Increased patient demographic accuracy
- Improved collection of co-pays and outstanding balances
- Reduced administrative costs
- Targeted patient messaging to improve health and wellness
- Higher on-time rooming rates
Streamlining and automating front desk workflows increases overall patient satisfaction. Patients spend less time in the waiting room and are happier with the billing process when claims are adjudicated quickly and accurately.
An integral part of the front-desk experience that can also be examined is the efficiency and accuracy of appointment setting. Up-to-date patient details taken during the appointment call can enhance the check-in process. Accurate information leads to a smoother claims cycle because insurance details can be verified several times: during the call, a few days before the appointment (so there is time to get in touch with the patient and correct any errors), and on the day of the appointment. Following an appointment setting protocol ensures faster check-ins for patients and staff, as well as boosts clean claim rates.