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Your Front Desk Staff is the Start of the Patient Experience

July 14, 2020

Ashley Buehnerkemper

front office staff

Patient health is your team’s top priority, but your level of customer service is also an important part of the patient experience. Today’s patients expect quality service alongside quality care and when they don’t receive it, they have a plethora of review sites and resources to share their negative experiences. And with plenty of other potential patients seeing these, your business and profitability can take a hit. According to Becker’s Hospital Review, a patient’s No. 1 complaint It all begins with your front desk staff.

This is why patient satisfaction is crucial, as is making sure your entire team is providing the highest level of customer service possible. A big part of this is your front desk staff. They’re the first to greet the patient, check them in, check them out, schedule appointments, answer questions and so on. A large amount of their responsibilities are based around customer service.

That being the case, it’s especially important you have the right team taking care of your front desk to create a great patient experience. So what traits/skills/knowledge should an ideal front desk staff possess?

  • They should be adaptable. Front desk staff members constantly have several things going on at once – taking care of in-office patients, covering the phones, administrative tasks, etc. With that, they’re communicating with all types of patients. Hopefully, it’s pleasant patients most of the time, but some patients will be stressed out about their health issues, billing, wait time and more. It’s a stressful environment, and the front office staff has to be reassuring, calm, polite and knowledgeable no matter what.
  • They should be able to multitask. We mentioned how front office staff is constantly juggling many different things. Along with communication, they’re handling elaborate paperwork relating to patients’ medical history, financial information and personal information. They’re also scheduling, rescheduling and canceling appointments as needed using your scheduling system. All of these tasks combine personal, organizational and technical skills, which a good front desk staff should have.
  • They should properly handle confidentiality. Keeping patient information private and safe is another important responsibility of the front desk staff. They should make sure private medical data is stored securely in an appropriate manner according to the necessary HIPAA guidelines. Simple mistakes like calling patients by their full name or confirming address information out loud can violate a patient’s privacy, or especially asking for a social security number out loud. Other HIPAA violations include having patient records open on a visible computer screen, leaving printed prescriptions on a desk in plain view or writing passwords on sticky notes that are easily seen (or photographed). Even accidental mistakes with patient privacy can result in significant fines or costly lawsuits, so make sure your staff is properly trained (and refreshed) in patient confidentiality.

In addition to that knowledge and skill set, there are specific actions your front desk staff can take (and avoid) to provide excellent service and positive patient experience.

Greet patients when they arrive.

If a patient’s first interaction at your practice is impersonal, cold or rushed, it will leave them with a bad taste for the rest of the visit. If a patient is greeted indifferently, without eye contact or not greeted at all, they’ll feel unimportant or like an inconvenience. If that continues, they’ll gladly go elsewhere for their care. Patients should be greeted with a smile and in a friendly manner, and have any questions or concerns addressed in a similar way.

Speak kindly and attentively to patients – with words and body language.

The tone and body language your front staff conveys to patients can have a far bigger impact than the words they’re saying. If your staff is laid back in their chair, not making eye contact or rolling their eyes, they’re communicating they have no interest in the patient or their needs. It goes without saying, but staff should avoid cursing or talking inappropriately. Even if they don’t feel they’re being inappropriate, different patients interpret things in different ways. Staff should be attentive, considerate and accommodating. You want your patients to know that even in your busiest times, customer service is still a focus.

Stay professional on the phone.

When you have patients in-office who need assistance, sometimes the quality of phone coverage can slip. But high-level phone service should be equally important to front office staff. When answering calls, they should answer with the same friendliness and professionalism they would to someone in the office. This includes clearly stating the name of the practice when answering, asking the patient’s name and using “active listening” to ensure the patient’s issues are understood.

Keep a clean front desk and waiting area.

A cluttered and disorganized front desk and waiting area may give patients the impression that the rest of your practice is that way too. Patients will be spending a good amount of time in your waiting area, so make it as clean and welcoming as possible to create the best patient experience. Make sure your front desk staff has the time and resources to keep the front desk and waiting area picked up and organized throughout the day.

Don’t speak negatively about others in front of patients.

Talking about office gossip and frustrations is bound to happen, but it’s easy to forget patients can hear these things too. Patients may wonder if they’ll be talked about negatively too. Conversations in earshot of patients should be positive and professional, with personal discussions saved for the break room or outside the office.

Need assistance with developing your team and creating a positive patient experience? We’re always a phone call or click away to support your needs. Schedule a consultation with one of our practice management experts today!


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