I was looking at job postings recently, and one literally asked: “Do you have 6 arms and 6 legs and can do ten things at once?”
The posting was for a front desk chiropractic assistant.
The front desk is the nerve center of the practice. The role the front desk chiropractic assistant performs is integral to the outcome for the patient and the success of the practice. To be successful, all facets of front desk responsibilities must be firing in perfect working order.
An efficient, effective and profitable front desk is within your reach – if you have the right systems and standards in place. Every office is unique, but these standards can be applied universally.
When executed correctly, they can transform your practice.
“Do you want to schedule?”
Seems like a harmless question, right? Wrong!
Believe it or not, this simple question can be detrimental to your practice volume and flow, and can actually affect patient outcome.
The front desk needs to be well-versed in scripting to schedule patients in every stage of care, and proactively guide the patient through the scheduling of his/her treatment plan. Each practice should have a scheduling guideline for each doctor and provider, and the staff must be trained to adhere to these guidelines. Proper, proactive scripting guides and leads the patient to also adhere to these guidelines. You want to give the patient options while still keeping them scheduled in the timeframe and window that is efficient for the office and effective for their care.
For instance, in scheduling a corrective care treatment plan patient, the front desk would say: “The doctor has prescribed a 3-day-a-week treatment plan for you. Which three days work best for you? Do you prefer morning or afternoon?”
Once the patient has answered with their preferred days and time, the front desk will find a time in the schedule that fits the patient’s choice and let them know that they will reserve this for the duration of their treatment plan.
The script for treatment plan patients is separate and different from the script used for maintenance patients. However, all patients should have a future appointment. Treatment plan patients should always be scheduled a minimum of 2 to 4 weeks in advance, preferably for the duration of their treatment plan. Maintenance patients should be scheduled for 3 to 12 months out.
In order to ensure the success of proper scheduling, a reminder postcard or email should be sent to all maintenance patients, and confirmation calls or texts (preferred) are essential for all patients. Prescheduled appointments are to be tallied at the end of the week, reflecting the following week’s numbers. This ensures that volume is at its highest and retention is maintained.
Properly prescheduled appointments provide a convenient time and routine for the patient, thus increasing retention and volume, while improving patient outcomes and the efficiency and flow of the office. The true key to this success is that all staff, including doctors and administrative staff, are speaking the same language and educating the patient on the value and benefit of their scheduled care.
Rescheduling – The Recall System
Having a steady flow of new patients is an excellent goal for a practice. Patient retention, however, is the key to positive patient outcome and practice success.
The reasons your patients may miss or cancel an appointment are as varied as your patients are. But no matter if the patient is going on vacation, busy with work, or just plain forgot about their appointment, it is up to the savvy front desk assistant to help patients reschedule these appointments and stay on their prescribed treatment plans.
My program for proper patient rescheduling is called the process of Recall. Recall will result in a healthy and satisfied patient and is a key factor in increased retention, which results in higher volume and greater revenue.
Recall is part of patient check-in, and it begins 15 minutes after a patient misses an appointment. Through a series of scripted telephone calls, a doctor call and a letter, you attempt to contact the patient to reschedule the missed appointment. These communications are documented on a shared log so that everyone in the office is on the same page.
The number one goal of Recall is to reschedule the patient for the missed appointment within the same week. If this is not a possibility, Recall allows for the confirmation of future appointments. If the patient is going out of town, or busy with work, etc., Recall provides a follow-up communication to bring the patient back in to reassess and continue treatment, helping both practice and patient.
Statistical analysis is not simply the collection of data. You must collect, organize, analyze, interpret, and present this data so that you can paint a picture of where your office stands, and what direction the office is heading. Each member of the staff is responsible for their own goals and statistics, so this analysis instills accountability and ownership.
The types of statistics you keep depend on the specialties and services of your practice. Generally, you will track consultations, new patient visits, prescheduled visits, total patient visits, missed appointments, rescheduled appointments, reactivated patients, and over-the-counter collections. These statistics are to be recorded each day by the front desk, and they are to be totaled at the end of each week and presented in the weekly staff meeting. I also recommend that you graph the statistics, using a spreadsheet program. The graphs let you see overall trends and help you manage and maintain growth.
The front desk holds and tracks all of these statistics, but they are directly responsible for three: prescheduled appointments, rescheduled appointments, and missed appointments. If your practice is following proper scheduling and recall protocol you should be able to meet and exceed your goals in all three.
Excellence in Customer Service
Exceptional customer service needs to be included in every aspect of your daily practice, and the front desk is at the forefront of ensuring that the experience is beyond patient expectations. The front desk is the very first interaction a new patient or potential new patient will have with your practice. This first impression, even via telephone, must be confident, well-informed, and friendly.
You can transform the patient experience from adequate to exceptional through the creation of a culture of customer service excellence. Your office is a place where relationships are built, pain is eased, and a foundation of wellness is achieved through teamwork and partnerships in health. The systems and standards of your office must be in place, but a culture of customer service excellence is most important. The entire office must be engaged in this culture and dedicated to the positive patient experience.
What are the elements of a culture of customer service excellence?
- Attention to detail
- Everything works – the process flows smoothly
- Every impression is positive, uplifting, and fun
- Staff is assertively friendly
- Staff anticipates the guests’ needs
- Everything is spotless and in perfect working order
- The experience is entertaining, imaginative, novel, and unexpected
- Stress is banished
What are the customer service excellence behavior standards for my practice?
- Make eye contact and smile.
- Greet and welcome every patient.
- Seek out patient contact – an assertive effort to offer assistance.
- Provide immediate service – take charge of problems.
- Display appropriate body language at all times – attentiveness, friendliness and good posture.
- Focus on the positives.
- Always thank each and every patient – make them know they are special.
All of these elements and behavior standards can be easily and immediately implemented in your practice. Get started today!
Mastering these standards and processes gives you the power to positively affect the entire practice and your patients. You don’t have to look for staff with two extra sets of arms and legs.
- Proper scheduling increases practice volume, improves practice flow, and provides the patient with convenience and routine.
- Recall keeps patients on track in compliance with their treatment plans, while maintaining practice volume.
- Statistical tracking and analysis instills accountability and ownership, helping the practice to set, meet and exceed goals.
- A culture of customer service excellence ensures that the patient experience is special and successful, resulting in happy, healthy, referring patients.
Learn, organize, implement, and grow!
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