We receive many questions from practitioners through our website, email, and conferences about how to achieve effective practice management. A well-managed practice does not have a singular solution. It is a package of a mixed variety of actions which include patient processing and management, proper documentation, regular staff training, effective communication, provider services, as well as accurate billing and coding. A fruitful solution requires the participation of every person who is involved in the practice.
Efficient patient processing- A Must for a Successful Practice
Practice Management is a 360-degree task that starts with accurate patient processing and leads to a successful visit. For a patient visit to go smoothly, it is important to gather all necessary information before the visit date and make all relevant information available to the patient. When processing is done correctly, both the patient and the practice can enjoy a good outcome.
By following a few fundamental guidelines, practices will greatly increase the number of satisfied patients and alienate burden on staff. A well-managed practice means happy patients, productive staff, and increased revenue.
Appointment Calls Understanding Patients’ Needs
Patient care begins with the initial phone call received by the doctor’s office. The phone representative is the first person introducing the practice to the patient and should instill a pleasant and lasting impression. This person must display a good grasp of overall knowledge about the practice. Most offices skip the start of the patient care cycle and concentrate on the doctors and technicians who come much later in the care process.
The practice representative must understand why the patient needs the appointment. What kind of visit will it be? Will it be a purely routine vision appointment, like routine a vision check, refraction, and contact lens exam, or are there other medical reasons for the visit? The more knowledge you have of the patient’s needs, the better care you can provide for the patient.
Receptionist – Scheduling for Correct Services
At the time of the appointment, briefly explain to the patient which insurances will be billed for the visit. Make the patient aware of the general benefits of the insurance, any care restrictions imposed by the particular plan, need for referral or pre-authorization, and any payment that might be collected at the time of visit or billed after the claim has been processed. Also, make sure to record the patient’s complete address, at least two phone numbers, and complete insurance information.
A few extra minutes spent at the time of scheduling will save hours of work later whilst building a better relationship with the patient. For an existing patient making a follow up appointment, explain to the patient which services might be done during the upcoming visit, what information she/he will need to bring in, possible wait time, and expected duration of the visit.
Patient Check-in – Care Matters
The front desk staff is the face of the practice. Patients’ first impression will be drawn from the interaction with the front desk. Remember, a smile goes a long way. Make sure to make eye contact with patients and greet them as you would greet a guest into your home. A pleasant experience at check-in will keep the lobby and the entire office calm.
If an unpleasant encounter arises, step back and hand over the matter to the management staff. Front desk staff should never step into a disagreeable situation. If check-in is not able to take care of a situation in a timely manner, it should be handed off to managerial staff so that she/he can continue helping other patients.
Front Desk Check List – Do It Right the First Time
At the time of check-in, make sure to verify the patient’s address and insurance on file. Do this every single time. Patients’ information can change unexpectedly. Maybe the patient had to move to a nursing care, assisted living, or other care facility. If the patient is unsure, ask where she/he will be spending the night. If the patient sleeps at home, the billing will be done differently than if the patient sleeps at a care facility. Make sure to scan in all insurance cards, front and back, into your software.
Also scan in a photo ID which has patient’s address on it. If there is any insurance change, scan in the new cards, make sure to deactivate the old ones, and add the new insurances in the system to ensure claims go to the correct payor. If the patient has a balance, print out a statement to handover at the time of check-in. If you are collecting any amount in advance, you have to be able provide the patient with a breakdown of the charges.
Patient Satisfaction – Your Practice Goal
Patients are your greatest referrals. Satisfied patients lead to increased practice volume. Give your patients reasons to recommend you. The most difficult situation may be resolved by simply listening carefully to the patient’s concern. Patients know their circumstances best, so hear them out and do your best to provide a positive response.
Also, remember not to use medical jargon when speaking with patients; it will only create confusion. Hold office meetings often so that everyone is on the same page. Hold open floor meetings so that everyone can learn from each other. A strong tree needs strong roots.