Front Desk Horror Stories Pt. 2

Posted by Diane McCutcheon on October 27, 2020
Diane McCutcheon
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Chatty Front Desk Has Frightening Consequences

A physical therapy practice in North Carolina failed to address issues at the front desk, leading to a slew of costly issues. Mary would routinely spend too much time engaging in small talk with patients as they came in and out of the clinic. Mary would get so wrapped up in the conversation that she would frequently forget to collect co-pays when checking-in or schedule follow-up appointments upon check-out. The few minutes of small talk would add up over the course of the day and before Mary knew it, she did not have time for her daily tasks.

The owner would receive complaints from neglected patients because Mary was too distracted to answer their questions. This poor customer service lead to an increase in no-show patients and Mary’s willingness to push off collecting patient financial responsibility (co-pays, deductible, etc.) for friendly conversation was costing the practice money. Despite our recommendation of addressing the issue with Mary, the owner proceeded to let the small talk continue and his revenue and reputation suffered the consequences. Two years and thousands of dollars left on the table later Mary quit without notice and left the owner stranded.

WHAT TO DO: If you notice a talkative employee is interfering with the practice’s productivity, address it before it becomes part of your practice culture. Practice owners should write down the processes for common tasks such as checking patients in and out and scheduling. This will help in managing an employee's productivity and provide a guide to train new employees. Stress the importance of running a highly effective front desk including collecting patient money at time of service and scheduling appointments and how not doing so will typically result in a significant loss of income to the practice.
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Patients Ghost Practice After Receiving Unexpected Bill

Scott opened his practice in 2018 and by 2019 the business had grown exponentially. When he opened the practice, Scott hired family and friends to work at the front desk because he wanted people he could trust. The people put in charge of the administrative duties never learned how to check benefits and training became less of a priority as the practice got busier.

Scott had to write-off over $15,000 in the first year of business because of no authorization in place at time of service. Patients received large unexpected bills. They were unaware they needed a referral or authorization before treatment or because the practice was out-of-network with their insurance. The patients were told not to worry about the insurance requirements as the front desk would take care of it. When patients received the unexpected bills there were many angry patients writing scathing reviews on the companies Yelp page. The hit to the practice’s reputation and the large write-offs encouraged Scott to finally invest in training for his front desk staff and he outsourced his billing to Account Matters, Inc.

WHAT TO DO: Always check a patient’s benefits before their first visit. Doing so will inform the patient of their financial responsibility and your staff will let them know what to collect from the patient at time of service. Make sure your office staff is knowledgeable about which insurances the practice is a provider for. If the practice is not a provider for a particular insurance the front desk can offer alternatives such as self-pay rates to out-of-network insurance patients. This simple solution reduces write-offs and decreases the likelihood of a patient not being correctly informed about their financial responsibility.

A Scary Number of Processes Slow Down Productivity

When a physical therapy practice in Georgia purchased a new billing system, their employees did not trust the accuracy of the software. Instead of using the systems reports, the practice managers implemented time consuming manual spreadsheets for the front desk to track data, such as referrals, authorizations, and co-pays. The managers continued to develop more manual processes for the front desk which became very time consuming and unnecessary. There were multiple employees handling multiple processes. When our experts visited the clinic for an assessment, we put a spotlight on the excessive hours and over staffing of the front desk due to all the time spent doing manual work that could be managed more effectively through the billing software reports.

WHAT TO DO: Purchase a billing system you trust and invest in proper training for your administrative staff. Many practice owners are not familiar with how helpful the billing and scheduling reports available from their system are to their business. They genuinely may not know what they need so we recommend contacting a billing expert for advice. Always remember, the billing software is only as good as the employees who are using it. Training is a must. A few hours of training with experts would have saved this practice from unnecessary hours of work and thousands of dollars in payroll to manage the manual processes instead of trusting the system they had.

Topics: Front Desk

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