I recently visited a specialty practice at a major health system. As I approached the registration desk a posted sign directed me to a standing kiosk to sign in. The family member I accompanied to the appointment was unable to stand at the kiosk, so I provided the needed information and signed her in. Although it was a quick and seamless process, I was concerned because if I needed assistance, there were no employees to ask. Many practices have implemented kiosk sign-ins and have someone to assist a patient with the process, if needed. Practice administrators have made the decision to implement a kiosk to assure verification of the current insurance policy and to prompt the patient to pay any out of pocket expense before they see the doctor. Many of the kiosk solutions allow a pre-registration via email permitting the patient to populate data and upload information from their own device at their convenience. Benefits of Kiosk Sign-in include: reduction in the staffing at the front desk, decrease in patient wait time, and most impressively, the increase of time of service collections.
You may not be ready for a kiosk at your registration desk but you should review key areas for process improvements to assure you are preparing your practice for success at the front line. The MGMA Connection magazine reported an increase in the patient out of pocket expense by 30% in the last two years. Previous reports had already noted significant increases in patient deductibles and co-pays outside of the office co-pay. Failure to educate your front office staff, evaluate workflows, review software for accurate verification of benefits, and the lack of consistent financial policies could cost you at the end of the revenue cycle, and hurt your practice in the long-run.
All this to say, first impressions are vital to a practice. A second experience I had is when I walked into a practice, the first thing I saw was each the front desk staff members was on the phone and did not acknowledge the patients walking in until they hung up. They were scheduling tests, getting pre-certifications and poorly collecting information and money. The staff had so many tasks that they were unable to perform any of them well and with intention. Focus your front office staff on key functions: greet the patient, collect data, verify data, and collect money. Setting goals and seeing improvement will engage your staff in the big picture and train your patients to expect quality and consistent service and furthermore, be willing to pay for it.
The changes in healthcare have caused us to focus on efficiency and high quality services at a reduced cost. As administrators, physicians, and/or staff members, you rarely enter the office from the front door so you may fail to see your operations from the patient’s perspective. Understanding how patients view your practice can put your practice at the next level. Paper registration is a hassle to update and likely skipped if the phones are ringing off the hook. Patient satisfaction is vital in any medical practice and patients are learning that technology can enhance their experience. The primary goal of the front desk should always be to provide great customer service because it is easier to collect from a happy patient. One you assure education, define processes, and establish best practices for the front office, it is time to set goals. Track performance (such as co-pay collection rate), reward success, monitor compliance, and watch your practice grow!
"Front Office Transformation- First Impressions" was originally featured in June's issue of Birmingham Medical News.