Front Office Staff: A Critical Link in the Success of Your Practice

By: Jennifer Heiligman, PT, MPT

First impressions are everything.  This statement applies to almost every aspect of life and business and is especially true when it comes to the front office staff for your rehab therapy practice.  These team members are often the first people from the business that interact with your patients.   For this reason and many more, your front office staff play a critical role in the success of your practice.

Training should be an integral part of the hiring process for all the staff, including the front office.  Your front office staff should be friendly and knowledgeable when that prospective patient calls the clinic or stops by to schedule their initial therapy visit.  The staff should have a generalized knowledge of different diagnoses so they can schedule the patient with the most suitable therapist.  For instance, if you have a therapist that specializes in the treatment of vestibular disorders, then those patients should be scheduled with that therapist.  This will help to ensure the patient’s success with treatment leading to their satisfaction with the services they received.  This success will make the patient more likely to recommend your clinic to their family and friends, thus increasing your business.

The front office staff should also be trained on the relevant aspects of the Electronic Medical Records system (EMR) that is used in your clinic.  If your EMR has a Patient Portal and a Patient Engagement App, like OptimisPT, the front office should be familiar with those features and be able to promote and assist patients in their usage.  Using the patient portal to have the patient electronically submit information directly into your EMR will greatly increase the efficiency on the front end.  This will also cut down on the paperwork that the front office staff needs to manage, including scanning, since required forms can be electronically signed through the OptimisPT Patient Portal.

Monitoring the clinic schedule is another way the front office can assist with improving revenue for the practice so make sure they are fully trained on the EMR schedule.   They will most likely be the first to be made aware of cancellations and rescheduled visits.  By closely monitoring any holes that may open up on a therapist’s schedule, they can proactively contact other patients to fill those openings.  This prevents the clinic from losing potential income from lost visits.   In addition, the front office can verify that a patient has additional visits scheduled and, if not, get the patient scheduled for future visits prior to leaving the clinic.  Again, cutting down on potential lost visits or even worse, lost patients.

Accurately and timely collecting copays, coinsurance and deductibles are another responsibility of the front office that plays an integral role in your clinic’s revenue.  This information should be readily available to the staff.  If you use OptimisPT, they will easily see the alert that is included for that patient’s scheduled visit indicating a payment may need to be collected.

In general, the overall smooth running of your practice starts with your front office staff.  By reducing wait times and enhancing the patient experience, the front office can increase your patient retention and increase referrals. They play an integral role in making sure patients are scheduled appropriately, checked in quickly and are made to feel welcome.  By keeping track and filling open visit spots on the schedule and collecting payments, they help to maintain and improve your practice’s revenue.  Keep in mind that your Net Promoter Score (NPS) is not only reflective of how your therapists are performing, it also includes customer satisfaction with your overall practice, including the front office.   By making training a priority and giving the staff the tools they need, your front office staff will be a critical element in the success of your rehab therapy practice.