Is your front desk welcoming, or repelling your patients, your customers? Yes, patients are your customers, they are the ones that create your income by coming to your practice. And whom do your customers first encounter” Your front desk staff. Are they a reflection of what you want your practice to be, representing you, or are they something you really don’t want to think about, low paid, marginal help that you have to have? High turnover, “you can’t get good help”, not worth paying more than minimum wage, staff?
That glass window that you installed for HIPAA privacy in the patient’s view is a device that allows them to hide from their view, to avoid eye contact, avoid dealing with them, the patient. Behind the glass window, are the people that greet your patients, expected to make them feel “welcome”, instruct them on the necessary registration materials to be signed, and most importantly, set the tone, and culture of the office for your patients? This is critical to your practice’s success.
Such people should be a positive contact point for your practice, yet a study published in the Journal of Medical Practice management reported that 96% of patient complaints about a practice have to do with customer service. It’s not the clinical care, the physicians care, but how they are treated in the experience of visiting your practice. And the first point of contact in the office is your front desk staff.
Now you need to look at your scheduling process as well to see if that is a point of friction, online or by phone, but the human aspect once in the office is your front desk staff.
How is the reception configured, and how are the staff trained?
If that glass window is a barrier that hides the staff, that allows them to ignore the patients, then your message is that they, your customers are secondary to everything else. If the patient has to ring a bell or tap on the window, or even read a hand-written sign that says sign in and take a seat, this is for the benefit of your staff, not your patients. Now if you have an alert on the door when it opens and that signals staff to open the window and welcome the patient, inviting them to start the registration process, you have a very different tone to kick off the patient visit.
And that welcoming staff person has to be hired for personality, a welcoming personality, and then trained to do the job, the tasks that need to be performed at the time of registration. Even if it requires more than minimum wage to fill the slot, the right person sets the cultural tone for the office and set you as the physician up for a better encounter with the patient. The glass window when opened, should not be to simply thrust a clipboard into the hands of the patient saying “fill these out”. The exchange between your staff and the patient would be welcoming and appreciative. In other words, make the exchange about the patient.
Take a look at your waiting room as well, is it inviting, clean, up-to-date, and comfortable? If not, take some time to make sure your waiting room reflects the kind of quality care you provide your patients.
About Alex Tate
Alex Tate is a Healthcare IT Researcher and writer at CureMD who focus various engaging and informative topics related to the health IT industry. He loves to research and write about topics such as Affordable Care Act, Electronic Medical Records, revenue cycle management, privacy, and security of patient health data.