Efficient workflow isn’t natural. It’s earned. With so much riding on a well-tuned office—from the most effective use of your time to creating the best patient experience—now is an opportune time to focus on streamlining the business operations of your practice.
Before delving into specific work functions, let’s focus on some key management principles of a successful medical practice.
First, it is important to recognize that your time is your practice’s greatest asset. Therefore, make sure the infrastructure of the practice is geared toward optimizing it. Second, your prime directive is to care for patients, so each work function must be patient-centric and support this imperative.
Here are some key dos and don’ts to transform your front office, mid-office and back office into a successful medical practice.
The front office: Directors of first impressions
Recruit well. Start by taking a deliberate approach to new employee orientation. Pay close attention to the quality of the training you provide to front office employees, just as you do for clinical staff. The front office plays a critical role in how your practice is perceived by your patients.
Provide resources. Don’t tolerate slow computers, inadequate workspaces or haphazard floor plans. Give employees the resources they need to get the job done efficiently. Install computers with high processing speed and dual monitors to facilitate efficient access to systems, and install top-notch workstations. At least once a quarter, ask each employee the question, “What is the one thing I can get you so that you can do your job better?”
Develop a start-of-day checklist. Put in writing all of the steps you would like taken before your office opens each day. Requesting employees to “turn on your computer” and “switch the phone off of the service” may seem trite, but stumbling over these basics is where problems start.
Keep a pulse on the practice. The schedule is dynamic, but it can’t be filled without good communication between all employees. Put a process in place so that if a patient cancels his or her appointment or the triage nurse sends a patient who has a scheduled appointment to the emergency department, the front office team is alerted to fill that patient’s appointment slot from a list of patients seeking a walk-in or “earliest opportunity” visit. Track wait times for appointments to ensure you are accommodating patients within your targeted timelines. The supervisor in this sector of the practice should create a daily action plan and share it via your intranet or a white board so that the entire team understands the nuances of the day.
Ask patients to prepare for their visit. To prevent delays at the front office, put information requests into the registration packet. Transmitting these requests to patients before they arrive produces a faster and more complete patient registration and intake process. It pays off with fewer delays and, potentially, the snags that cause claim denials
Focus on accuracy. Mistakes happen, but often they are the result of poor training or lack of understanding regarding the importance of the work. Recognize that investing in your front office means saving money later on. If your business office is busy correcting errors made by your front office employees related to patient demographic and insurance information, you are spending a lot of money on rework—and delaying your reimbursements. Avoid claim denials and delays caused by messy or incomplete patient information by providing education to your front office team and tracking and monitoring the quality of their work.
Receive the patient in the scheduling system. With the advent of electronic health records (EHRs), the root word of receptionist—to receive—seems to be lost. Teach the front office team how to appropriately greet patients and ensure that each patient gets due attention, without overlooking important business processes, such as collecting patient balances and copayments, verifying coverage and other details. The front office is truly the director of first impressions.