You understand that your front desk staff isn’t just answering phones and letting the doctor know when patients have arrived—there are complexities and challenges in their work, and those have been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As we head into flu season—your busiest season of the year—how can your clinical workflow be tweaked to make your front desk staff’s lives a bit easier?
How to reduce phone calls to improve your front desk workflow
For small tweaks to your clinical workflow, you may want to start with thinking about how to get your front office staff off the phones. It takes each patient an average of 8 minutes to book an appointment over the phone—someone from your front desk staff is spending those 8 minutes with them. The average front desk staff spends 10 hours per week scheduling and confirming appointments via phone.
It only takes patients 4.2 minutes to book an appointment online. And your staff spends 0 of those 4.2 minutes booking that appointment!
Phone calls are a huge time suck and source of medical receptionist burnout. And patients’ communication preferences have shifted away from phone calls since the onset of the pandemic. It’s clear that the time has come for a radical change when it comes to medical office front desk workflows: make phone calls triage, not the first line of defense.
Cross-train your staff
If your staff is burnt out on phone time, try cross-training them on a variety of roles throughout the office to keep them energized. This can look like lunch-and-learn sessions on specific duties or be part of their initial and ongoing training. When you cross-train your staff to do a variety of different roles, you stretch them in a good way. Employees want to feel like they’re being developed, and that they’re valued across the organization.
Cross-training your staff also helps you if you ever run into staffing problems. You’ll be able to keep your front office running efficiently short-staffed.
Try online scheduling to improve your front desk workflow
Improving your workflow means integrating new tools—most offices start by utilizing their EHR’s online scheduling tool because it seems like the most practical solution. This usually isn’t the case, as EHRs aren’t built to support streamlined patient communication.
Patient portals have low adoption rates because patients don’t find them useful for communicating with their doctors. Medical offices are seeing more success in connecting online appointment booking seamlessly with their EHR.
Your online patient appointment scheduling tool should show real-time availability for each provider in your practice and be able to handle the complexity of scheduling different appointment types.
Do patients prefer online appointment scheduling?
Did you know that patients have to wait an average of 24 days between when they call to set an appointment and when they actually see the doctor? This lack of convenient, timely care means patients often turn to other types of care (e.g. urgent care or emergency rooms) to meet their needs. Only 1 in 3 people under the age of 45 go to their PCP first for common medical issues.
Primary care providers should make access more convenient, so they can capture these appointments, improve patient experience, and achieve better outcomes. That convenience starts online. Patients prefer to book online—in fact, 33% of patients book their appointment online after hours when your office is closed.
How to reduce no show appointments
No-shows are a huge disruption to your front office workflow (and your revenue!) The Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) estimates that medical practice no-show rates range from 5–7%, while other sources estimate the average no-show rate is closer to 19%. During the pandemic, no-show rates rose to as high as 80% in some areas.
There are some things you can add into your clinical workflow that can dramatically reduce no-show rates. In fact, our no-show rate (looking at patients who book appointments through Solv) is well below the national average for all specialties: Solv's no show rate is 3%.
Here's what you can try to optimize your front desk workflow and reduce no show appointments:
- Send automated appointment reminder texts. Automated appointment reminder texts are an easy way to nudge patients towards coming in for their scheduled appointment. Patients have busy lives, and they’re waiting 24 days between scheduling the appointment and actually coming into the office—some are bound to forget about their appointment!
- Make patient appointment scheduling more convenient. No-show rates increase as the lead time to their appointment increases, so if you can provide an online schedule that allows patients to fill appointment slots within the same week—or even on the same day—you will dramatically reduce your no-show rate.
- Review eligibility before accepting the appointment. Online appointment scheduling tools can pre-screen insurance eligibility, and show the patient the cost of their appointment.
- Schedule follow-up visits at checkout. Don’t rely on patients to call back in—they won't. Schedule follow-up appointments while they’re still present in the office.
Simplify the patient check-in process
Patient check-in has the ability to be a huge detractor from your office’s overall productivity. Before they ever see the physician, patients can get held up filling out forms with the front office. You can simplify the process by verifying insurance during appointment scheduling, versus once they’re in the office.
To take it a step further, have patients fill out all required forms ahead of time—including insurance—in a secure portal that integrates into your EHR. Patients also appreciate the chance to do paperwork ahead of time, as it saves them time and prevents them from doing tedious work before their appointment. And, it saves your staff time doing this task over the phone!
Auto-send test results to improve the medical office workflow
Deliver patients their test results faster—and reduce the hours your staff spends on the phone—by auto-sending test results. Give your lab a competitive and professional advantage so patients can access their results anytime, anywhere.
Improving your clinical workflow doesn’t have to be difficult—it can be as simple as you need it to be. Your patients (and your staff!) will appreciate it. Solv has solutions to help you manage high volumes AND stay busy during the slow season.