In many ways, the front desk of your medical practice is the unsung hero of the business. When things go right – when the front desk is operating at optimum efficiency, and all services and actions are perfectly in sync – you probably don’t hear about it. However, when there are problems – lapses in information transfer, dropped appointments, patient information entry error – the machinery of your medical practice can come to a grinding halt pretty quickly.
Errors can cause anything from bottlenecking of your daily workflow to redundancies of information gathered, to time lost, and bottom line reduced in your medical billing. Errors come in all shapes and sizes. For example, the simple act of the front desk staff getting to know a person’s name, and addressing the client as such can have strong positive effects when practiced but can have profoundly negative effects when ignored. Sometimes the disruption in workflow is caused by something as straightforward as not enough phone lines to manage the incoming calls.
Whatever the problem, there are a number of recommendations that can be considered best practices for your front desk staff. Here are five of the many actions that your practice can start employing today:
1) Check Patient Information and Demographics
It is important to remember that all the systems in a modern medical office are linked. The moment a patient checks in for an appointment, all the information needs to be recorded. This affects a number of processes from medical billing to the mailing of patient results to generating clean claims. They are the most essential pieces of information to get right, but you’d be surprised how often this is done incorrectly, and the amount of money this error can cost to rectify. Thankfully, the solution is simple, and only requires a little elbow grease: check all patient information carefully, every time a patient is seen and ensure it is entered properly. This is true for patients that are seen on a regular basis. Insurance plans can change from month to month, and the patient may have forgotten to tell you about their new secondary insurer.
2) Check Insurance Eligibility and Carrier
What is the main reason for an insurance claim denial? Lack of insurance eligibility that probably could have been avoided before the claim was first submitted. While running an insurance eligibility check and seeing if a patient’s insurance has changed can be done at any point in the revenue management cycle, studies have shown that checking this at every single visit at the very beginning can greatly reduce the chance of denials downstream. Check eligibility and confirm their most current insurer at the beginning of every visit.
3) Obtain Permission to Have a Credit Card on File
Hotels figured out a long time ago that they could streamline their notoriously long check out times by having a customer’s card already on file. Medical billing companies like Delphi Management Services have found that obtaining permission to keep a patient’s credit card on file can be exceptionally helpful in consolidating the billing process and ensuring all charges can be paid promptly. Some medical offices have made this practice mandatory, and ask if the patient would like to receive a statement and have their card charged 30 days later, or to have their card charged immediately if they don’t require a statement. With a patient’s card on file, this protocol is easy to initiate. This practice is increasingly important with high deductible plans on the rise and an increase in private pay patients.
4) Ensure All Procedures are Authorized
It is best practice to obtain authorization for all procedures, likely prescribed medications, and possibly durable medical equipment. Getting into the habit of pre-authorizations is just one of the items on the checklist for your front desk staff that can smooth out your complicated workflow.
5) Reminder Calls
Reminder calls are the bread and butter of avoiding late appointments, reschedules, and no-shows. Evidence shows they can be the single most important factor preventing lost revenue due to empty time slots. A reminder call is a must for any office, and front desk staff can be responsible for making the calls the day before (or perhaps even better, 2 days before) the appointment to make sure the patient doesn’t miss their time slot and back up your office. Newer integrated EHRs can allow for email reminders, electronic calendar invites, text message notifications, or automated voice reminders to a patient’s cell phone. Any option can be a tool at a medical office’s disposal.
These are just some of the many strategies that outside medical billing companies can suggest to help your office run as efficiently as possible.