Shaping Up Your Front Desk
One of the most important features of your medical practice is your front desk staff. Of course, they aren’t directly providing care for the patients that drop by your clinic or office, but they are the face of your business. If your front desk is lazy or rude, it doesn’t matter how amazing the care you provide is… odds are, patients aren’t going to want to come back if they had a bad experience before seeing you. A bad front desk staff can sour the already negative feelings associated with having to visit a doctor. People want to feel like they are cared about when they come in for treatment, not like they’re just another name on a list.
Nothing annoys a sick or injured person more than approaching a front desk employee and having to wait for them to finish their conversation with another employee or texting before they are finally attended to. It should be the priority of the front desk staff to take care of patients that approach them. They should put their personal conversations on hold in order to take care of the concerns of patients.
People visiting a doctor’s office or clinic aren’t feeling well, so they may be moody or angry when they arrive. That doesn’t mean that the front desk should be rude back. They should keep a smile on their face and an upbeat attitude even when faced with an unruly patient.
You should have rules in place that are specifically for answering the phone. Should the phone be answered before a certain number of rings? Should patients directly in front of your front desk be given priority over phone calls? Really, that’s all up to you, but you don’t want either party to feel neglected.
In this modern age where just about everyone has a smartphone glued to their hand, it can be pretty difficult to get your staff to drag their attention away from them. Whether you ban cellphones completely or just limit staff access to them is up to you. Though, even if you ban them it isn’t unlikely that staff will sneak in some time with their technology. It may be good to have rules in place that limit how much time they can spend on their phone. For example, if there are patients in the waiting area or right in front of them, then the front desk staff should not be on their phones.
There are a few risks to allowing workers access to their phones during work. Depending on the cellphone usage, you could find yourself in violation of HIPAA. If your staff takes pictures behind their desk, then they should ensure that they are not doing so where patient information is visible.
During lags in business, front desk staff may find themselves using their work computers for non-work related things… like watching YouTube or Netflix. It just looks bad if a patient approaches the front desk and the staff is staring dead-eyed at their computer screens while wearing headphones, completely oblivious to everything around them.
How to Avoid HIPAA Violations
As you know, HIPAA is in place to protect the health information of the patients that come into your clinic. Front desk staff should refrain from discussing a patient’s information in a public space, such as the lobby. Confidential info should only be discussed in a private setting, such as an examination room. Front desk staff should also be instructed to tell patients when the patient is sharing too much of their private info. Gently, of course. It should be explained that the front desk personnel is not included on the “need to know basis” that is a person’s medical information and history.
Information kept on paper should not simply be thrown away. A proper shredding and disposal system should be in place to get rid of defunct paperwork. If the information is digital, then any system that holds personal information should be password protected and auto-locked. When your clinic is closed, or when staff is away from the computer, the computer should be locked or shut down. Of course, passwords should be complex for these systems and not easy for any potential outsiders to get into. Files or systems containing sensitive information should be kept locked away where unauthorized people should not be able to access it.
Your clinic or office should employ a verification process to make sure that information isn’t given out to the wrong person. The person should be able to verify that they are, in fact, who they claim to be, or are at least allowed to access the information. Keep a log of your HIPAA training to show your compliance. You can role play scenarios with your staff to show them what to do and not to do when facing situations that can lead to a violation.
It all sounds like a lot to do and deal with, but the good news is you don’t have to do this alone. Come join us at our Medical Practice Success Summit to learn how to make your front desk staff SPECTACULAR and so much more! Check out the website HERE!