May 15, 2019
The front desk is the entry point and first impression of the practice. It’s a critical step in the revenue cycle and impacts most areas of the practice.
Here are five ways to fine-tune the front desk, in order to improve efficiency and collections, reduce claim denials, and drive practice productivity.
1. Create a service center to answer the phone.
A receptionist distracted by a ringing phone cannot give full attention to the patients in front of him or her. And, distractions can cause data entry errors, which drive claim denials.
For large practices, create a service center to answer incoming calls, manage referrals, and schedule appointments. Flex staff between the front desk and the service center to adjust for times of increased patient volumes or peak phone calls.
For small or solo practices, designate a primary phone operator away from the front desk for busy clinic days. This could be a billing team member or office manager.
2. Fully pre-register new patients.
Collect all demographic information, including insurance information, during the new patient scheduling call, or enroll patients into the patient portal. Whichever method you choose, be sure the following information is entered into the practice management system prior to the patient’s first visit:
– Name of carrier
– Group name/number
– Policy number
– Policy holder name & DOB
– Phone number and address for claim submission (from back of the card)
If the pre-registration is by phone, train staff to use friendly language with new patients. Example: Do you have your insurance card available? Would you please read to me some information from the card? And with established patients, do not ask, “Has anything changed?” It makes it too easy for the patient to say “no,” even if something has changed.
3. Collect past due balances.
During the scheduling call, attempt to collect any past due balance on the account. This requires training front desk staff how to look up the patient’s balance in the practice management system, as well as use the right tone and language when asking for money. Scripts and role playing ensure your team collects with consistency and compassion.
4. Perform batch eligibility.
At least two days prior to appointments, perform batch eligibility to ensure patients scheduled have active insurance and to obtain co-pay information. Most practice management systems can be set up to run the eligibility check automatically. Ensure any required referrals/authorizations are on file. Failing to do these things may result in uncompensated clinic visits.
5. Measure and hold accountable.
There’s a saying that staff respect what managers inspect.
Use billing system and clearinghouse reports to measure and report the volume of claim denials. This information is essential to assessing front-end registration performance.
Another accountability tip: ask the front desk staff, not the billing office, to correct registration errors that cause claim denials. For example, demographic inaccuracies or transposed numbers. Doing so allows the front desk team to understand the importance of their role in the claim creation process, and will improve their accuracy.