Just about everyone you meet can tell you a story about a doctor visit gone wrong—and most of them begin at the front desk. When staffing your urgent care clinic, we tend to put more emphasis on care providers and our back office billing team. These are definitely important, but your front desk is the wheelhouse of the ship. All too often, this captain is the newest employee at the clinic, or has little experience—which can lead to your entire enterprise getting off course.
The front desk staff is often the first person your patients talk to—which sets the tone for every patient visit. But this position is also critical to your urgent care’s financial success.
When filling the seat at your front desk, choose wisely. Be sure the employee has a pleasant demeanor, is attentive to details and a natural multitasker, knows the importance of discretion, and is a team player. Active training and monitoring by management is critical every step of the way.
To be sure you’re attending to your revenue cycle management in addition to meeting and greeting patients, put your focus on these six strategies:
- Accuracy – Be sure all patient registration is accurate and complete, including scanning insurance cards and driver’s licenses. This will reduce the number of claim rejections and work necessary by the billing staff.
- Real Time Insurance Verification (RTV) Consistency – Verifying insurance coverage on the spot is vital for efficient claims processing. Beyond verifying the patient has active coverage, it will give you important insurance information so you know what to collect at the time of visit. If you’re not insisting on RTV from every person who works your front desk, you’re missing a huge opportunity to improve collections and streamline your revenue cycle from the outset.
- Copayment Collection – The best time to collect from a patient is when they are right in front of you. Don’t wait to collect their copay until after claim submission, capture it up front.
Previous Balance Collection – A patient visit provides the opportunity to be sure the patient account is in good standing and alleviates a growing unpaid balance that will be more difficult to collect. It’s important that your front desk staff is comfortable asking patients for money and understands their role in the RCM process. Recent research indicates that only 20 percent of people are actually good at asking for money.
To alleviate the anxiety, make asking for payment on previous balances a part of your check-in procedures. Teach your front desk staff to check for balances while they still have a patient’s credit card in hand. While processing the copayment, they can more comfortably ask the patient if they can also take care of a previous balance at the same time. It can be difficult to insist on payment of prior balances before patients can be seen, but it is an important step in the financial health of your clinic.
Understanding Health Savings Accounts (HSA) – Due to the increasing availability and use of health savings accounts and the direction of the insurance industry, a larger percent of your revenue is patients’ responsibility. Along with these changes, the percent of revenue paid in cash (or with an HSA) is increasing.
Most patients with an HSA account will have an HSA debit card. Understanding these plans, knowing what the visit costs, and then collecting on that before the patient ever leaves your facility will allow you to collect more, speed up cashflow, and reduce the backend billing effort.
- Expert Training and Monitoring – Continually train and monitor your front desk staff and make sure they understand the importance of what they’re doing. Once they understand the downstream impact they have on the clinic, front desk staff can quickly become a (not so) secret weapon to your success. If you don’t have the knowledge or skills to guide your front desk staff, get help from urgent care and RCM experts.
A large percentage of your revenue can (and should) be collected at the front desk—which is why this person is critical to your financial success. Download the Urgent Care Check-in Checklist to make sure your front desk staff knows what to verify and collect when they check patients into your clinic.
Understanding the vital role your front desk plays in the financial success of your business is key. Be sure you fill this position as carefully as you would a care provider—your RCM success depends on it.