Front Desk Horror Stories Pt. 1

Posted by Diane McCutcheon on October 14, 2020
Diane McCutcheon
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Introduction from the Author:

As we creep into the Halloween season of spells, I am reminded of scary horror stories of my past consulting experiences. I worked with countless PT, OT and/or SLP owners who called me in to assess their front desks and the processes they had in place. They knew things needed to change because they were losing money. I have slithered into hundreds of practices ferreting out the gory details of my mission to make changes at the front desk. Most owners were somewhat surprised by my dreadful findings and took the next step to follow my recommendations and make modifications that would ensure they were paid for the services they provided. Here are a few specimens:

Sticky Fingers Lead to Horrifying Consequences

Lauren was the office manager at a physical therapy practice in Washington. She was responsible for overseeing the front desk and billing for the practice and the owner trusted her completely. The owner contacted our office for an assessment because they noticed that patient volume was going up but cashflow remained the same. We discovered that Lauren was taking checks and depositing them into her own bank account. Lauren was able to steal over $50,000 in insurance checks because she was the only person opening the mail and managing the billing. The owner of the practice did not have a process in place to reconcile the money coming in and put too much trust in his staff and it ended up costing them BIG.

We worked with another physical therapy practice in Rhode Island whose front desk was stealing cash co-pays. And instead of firing the employee the practice changed their policy to only accepting credit cards or checks. The employee was kept on staff, but the trust was completely gone and the friendly work environment disappeared.

WHAT TO DO: Put a reconciliation process in place for change of shift and end of day. This process should be followed at change of shifts and at the end of day. Two employees should sign off that the cash on-hand, checks and credit card payments balance with the collected payments report provided by the system. An easy way to determine if money is landing in the wrong hands is to match your bank deposits with the amount provided by the billing system report. Owners who take an active role in the administrative side of their business are much less likely to be taken advantage of.

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A Terrifying Promotion for an Unqualified Employee

Marilyn hired a patient care coordinator who had no experience to assist the front desk of her busy physical therapy practice in New Jersey. Marilyn’s managers informed her that the employee was making costly mistakes. In a twelve month period, the practice had to write off nearly $10,000 in claims because authorization was not obtained before the patient’s first visit and patients were calling to complain about unexpected medical bills because they were given incorrect insurance benefit information. Marilyn invested in training for the new front desk team member so they would feel more confident in their role, but the problems persisted.

Instead of terminating the employee, Marilyn moved the employee to the billing department. Since the employee did not grasp the processes at the front desk, she was equally unsuccessful in their new role. This employee would submit claims without authorization and write-off balances without attempting to appeal rejections and denials. The loss of revenue nearly crippled Marilyn’s practice but still she refused to terminate the employee who could not perform the job in which she was being paid.

WHAT TO DO: When hiring an employee with no experience, make sure you have qualified staff available to train them. If you do not have the qualified staff consult with experts who have knowledge in training and developing new staff. Account Matters, Inc. is a great choice. A new employee with proper training should understand the basics of the job within the first 90 days and after that orientation period, be ready to learn even more.

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Topics: Front Desk

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