The Importance of the Front Desk Team in Patient Collections
If you read a few of our blog articles, you will notice that we mention the front desk role routinely. The reason is their crucial role of the revenue cycle. However, most practices overlook the importance of the front desk staff. But why would they? Strong billing companies work with pediatric practice front desk team members to optimize the revenue cycle. The practice administrator or the pediatric practice owner is the person who makes the decision on hiring for this important role as well as training and monitoring performance. If anything, practices should be paying close attention to their front desk team. Let’s look a little closer at this role in the office:
1. Greeting Patients
The front desk team members need to have skills in patient and parent engagement. This engagement is both on the phone as well as in person. Parents and patients should feel welcome when they contact the practice and the front desk team sets the appropriate tone and engagement approach. Strong front desk team members remember traits/background on the family and use this information to connect with the families when they arrive at the office. Children might be concerned about receiving a vaccine or visiting the doctor. The parent might be a new mother and not know what to expect. The front desk team should be able to make all individuals feel welcome and open to visiting the practice.
2. Obtaining and Verifying Demographics and Insurance Information
Capturing the proper patient demographics and insurance information starts with the front desk team members. Their role should include verifying age, preferred language, address, and the current active insurance(s). A good process is for the front desk team members to review the current address and insurance information on file versus just asking “has anything changed?”
3. Checking Eligibility
After the front desk team member verifies the patient demographics and current insurance information, they should check via real time eligibility if the insurance profile given is active per payer. Some insurance carriers have real time features that the front desk team can just verify via pushing a button in the system while others require the front desk team to check Navinet or call the insurance carrier. This is an important step that a practice admin and/or physician partner should monitor and coach as needed.
4. Collecting Co-pays and Patient Balances
The front desk team members should also be collecting the copay based on the patient’s insurance as well as any outstanding balances. A good pediatric billing company should communicate patient balances on the account for a family so this is available in the system for the front desk team members to collect from families. A solid pediatric practice management system should display this information on the schedule or flagged the patient’s chart so the front desk team member can use the most current information. The practice manager should train and coach front desk team members to collect balances in a friendly but consistent manner.
5. Scheduling Appointments
The practice administrator and/or point physician partner should provide guidelines on how to schedule well and sick visits for the pediatric practice. Ideally, this approach leads to optimal well visits. An end-to-end pediatric practice management and EHR system should also have a tool for the staff to identify patients that are due to schedule a well visits so the front desk team can call the patients and schedule them. Additionally, when patients complete an appointment, this is an important time to capture their next well or sick visit depending on the recommendation by the provider. Some practices activate the option to request appointments via the patient portal. The front desk team members should be monitoring and respond to patient portal scheduling requests timely, similar to phone calls to the office.
6. Communication to Other Medical Staff Members
The front desk team members communicate with parents, patients, and with the medical staff at the pediatric practice. A good performing front desk team member learns to balance the requests of parents and patients with the processes of the pediatric practice. This takes time and communication skills with the medical staff. For instance, a parent might call looking to schedule an appointment, the front desk team needs to identify options and at times speak with one of the providers to identify an opening.
There are many aspects of a good front desk team member. A pediatric practice should hire the right person for the position, provide adequate training, monitor performance, and provide coaching as needed. When the right person is hired and they perform consistently, the collection rate for the practice is usually enhanced.