The success of a hospital or private practice is often attributed to its specialists and resident doctors. Each successful, high-profile operation or treatment procedure brings prestige to a practice and increases the public’s trust in the institution. These, in turn, result in increases in consultations and referrals. Patients and referring doctors will prefer institutions with a reputation for having compassionate and capable specialists, after all.
No doubt that the doctors are the stars of the show. There is, however, another position that may not be not as glamorous but is arguably just as crucial in ensuring the success of a medical practice. That position is the front desk or receptionist staff.
Frontliners in Medical Practices
The responsibilities of front office staff may not be clinical, but they are still regarded as frontliners in the industry. They are the first people patients and their families and guests see and interact with when they walk into a hospital or clinic. It’s not an exaggeration, therefore, to say that patient experience begins at the front desk.
Receptionists play a big role in setting patients’ expectations regarding the quality of care in a facility. It’s therefore important that practices hire the best people for this job. Consider giving new hires call center skills tests before making them an offer so you can measure their skills in multitasking, phone etiquette, and customer service.
Below are the skills and qualities a hospital front desk staff must possess:
- Social Skills
The ideal receptionists are natural conversationalists. They are typically extroverts who are outgoing, friendly and possess a warm and welcoming aura. ;They do not intimidate people, yet they exude enough authority that demands respect from patients, visitors, and outsiders. Talking to patients is practically in the job description: receptionists often have to chat with nervous patients or their companions and help them relax before a much-dreaded check-up or treatment procedure. Social skills, therefore, are necessary for hospital receptionists and front desk admin staff.
- Communication and Collaboration Skills
Hospital and private practice receptionists must be good at communicating with their fellow hospital staff, doctors, nurses, administrative officials, and support staff. Front desk information is crucial to the overall hospital operations, and they must be forwarded to the right departments. Teamwork is essential in providing quality healthcare, and receptionists who lack the confidence to coordinate with other hospital departments or talk to senior officials will have a hard time doing their job properly. Finally, the front desk staff should know the best practices when receiving and interpreting incoming and outgoing messages. They should know how to sort information according to importance or priority.
- Multitasking Skills
The front desk is one of the busiest workstations in a private practice. Besides laying down the welcome mat for patients, receptionists must also do the following:
- Enter the patients’ information in the EMR/EHR system
- Receive and dispatch messages, parcels, medical histories, and packages on behalf of employees and patients at the hospital.
- Manage consultation appointments between patients and general practitioners. This includes scheduling appointment requests and sending out reminders using appointment reminder software.
- Carry out administrative work while fielding interruptions as politely as possible (e.g., answer repetitive questions from patients and visitors while updating or creating new patient records).
- Attention to Detail
Receptionists need to be as sharp as a knife when it comes to details. They should be able to spot typos in a patient’s EHR data, for example, or notice that the insurance policy number provided by a referral doesn’t match the usual policy identification number of the insurance company it’s supposedly from. Small mistakes like these can lead to devastating outcomes like a misdiagnosis or denial of a patient’s insurance claim. Although these are not solely the responsibilities of receptionists, they are still best placed to keep an eye on these mistakes.
- Knowledgeable in Insurance Claims Protocols
Speaking of insurance reimbursements, front desk staff should at least be informed about the requirements for insurance claims. Many hospitals suffer financially because of miscommunications between the front desk and the back office or billing department. To avoid insurance claims denials and the problems they cause for both patients and practices, receptionists often have to spot potential red flags upon admission.
For example, they need to know the scope of government medical assistance and health benefits, and whether a patient will be able to benefit from them. Heading off these denials will save both parties the hassle of non-payment of healthcare services rendered.
Training Is Key
Here’s some good news for hospitals and private practices: the skills mentioned above can be learned. If finding people who have experience working in an office setting and can acclimate to the medical industry proves challenging, medical institutions must invest in training and upskilling their current employees.
Skills training is just as important as investments in medical office software and database security systems. Competent and trustworthy non-clinical personnel can contribute just as much to the success of a medical institution as decorated medical specialists.