Your Community Health Center (CHC) front desk has many roles. It serves as a welcome face for those in need of care and must be a hub of efficiency when waits grow long and the waiting room is filled. An important and often overlooked facet of the front desk is its part in the CHC revenue cycle. At PMG we’ve been known to say “the battle can be lost or won at the front desk.” Today’s post contains some tips to ensure your front desk is a revenue cycle winner.
Tracking Front Desk Success
If you haven’t done so already, assign someone to spearhead your front desk improvements. This person’s first task is to clearly define the processes and procedures for the front desk staff. Will they be posting charges? What is the protocol for requesting self-pay balances? Include billing department and clinical management for suggestions. This helps ensure that the front desk processes work in tandem with other revenue cycle departments. Make a copy of the final processes list available to these departments as well so everyone is on the same page.
Once you have a complete list of front desk duties you can begin to track and improve gaps in performance. You can evaluate cycle time at the front desk for each patient visit. Spend a day tracking the time it takes to handle check-in, demographic registration, insurance verification, referral/ prior authorizations, sliding scale applications and payment collections. Account for all functions prior to the patient being ready for the provider. Once you have this data, identify which part of the process needs improvement and start there.
Training Is Your Greatest Tool
Defining the job specifics is a huge step in the right direction. The next step is to make sure all front desk staff not only know but understand what is expected. Most CHCs train newly hired front desk staff on the basics but too few provide ongoing in-depth training. Create a set of front desk-specific trainings that you an offer to both new and existing staff. Make the completion of these trainings a part of the job requirement and set up a simple tracking system to ensure everyone has completed their assigned tasks.
At PMG, we encourage our CHC revenue cycle clients to provide front desk training on:
- Customer service and patient interactions
- Collection of patient demographic info and the impact on revenue
- Eligibility checks including referrals and the impact on revenue
- Appointment scheduling
- Patient balance collections and sliding scale policies
- Charge and payment reconciliation
Use Billing Reports to Reduce Front Desk Denials
We’ve seen CHCs with over 57% of denials stemming from issues with eligibility. Enlist someone from the billing department to provide reports of all front-end denials by type and location. Use these reports to identify areas for improvement and to create measurable goals for front desk staff. Make it a team goal to reduce eligibility denials by X%. Provide clear instructions on how to improve these numbers (this is where your training library will come in handy.) Post these goals and your monthly progress on a bulletin board and offer a reward if this goal is met.
You need to ensure all departments are on top of their game and front desk is no different. Investing time and energy to improve your front desk performance can help reduce staff turnover, increase patient satisfaction, reduce denials, and increase cash. It is definitely time well spent.