5 Staffing Best Practices For Your Physical Therapy Front Desk
Regardless of what procedure or criteria guides you on knowing how to hire a skilled PT receptionist, it won’t matter if you can’t keep your front desk team together for long.
Staffing your front desk involves more than just hiring — it’s an ongoing process of training, retaining, upskilling, and nourishing your staff.
How do you achieve that? Here’s how:
Why Is An Effective Front Desk Staffing Strategy Important?
Delivering a positive, consistent patient experience is crucial for physical therapy clinics to succeed.
The front desk plays an enormous role in facilitating the patient experience. Your receptionists are the first point of contact for your patients when they enter your clinic. They instill a sense of warmth and trust as they greet your patients with a friendly smile.
Receptionists also contribute to operational efficiency by taking care of administrative tasks such as answering phone calls and responding to emails.
The challenge, however, is keeping your front desk staffed.
On average, it takes up to 3-6 months to hire new receptionists. However, a receptionist’s average tenure is roughly 6-12 months before leaving due to:
- The tiring nature of the role. Receptionists are required to travel back and forth and are expected to maintain a warm, friendly demeanor while shouldering numerous administrative tasks
- Lack of management support. Receptionists feel neglected or unheard by management when facing workflow issues and operational inefficiencies
- No room for career growth. Receptionists find their work stagnant and boring because of the absence of opportunities to upskill
The solution is an effective front desk staffing strategy that ensures your clinic always has receptionists to keep front office operations running smoothly.
To create an effective staffing strategy, you need to implement 5 best practices on how to hire a PT receptionist that will stay in your clinic for the long term.
Front Desk Staffing Best Practices For Physical Therapy Clinics
1. Never Let Your Providers Work The Front Desk
Some practices run their front desk operations without receptionists due to:
- No need for receptionists – Managers of small-scale practices or family-run clinics may decide to assign administrative duties to their providers
- Lack of consistent access to front desk staff – Practices struggle to find highly skilled receptionists
- Absenteeism – Receptionists who are on vacation, out sick, or attending to personal emergencies leave your front desk empty
In these circumstances, clinics assign check-in facilitation and other administrative work to their providers. Ideally, this reduces costs while removing the need for front desk staff.
However, in reality, this is highly counterproductive.
In a 2019 survey by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), 85.2% of providers agreed that administrative work is a contributing factor to burnout.
If you place administrative work in the hands of your providers, in the long run, your practice will suffer from several drawbacks, including:
- Low-quality care – Providers cannot perform properly due to spending energy and dividing their attention between the patient and the front desk
- Provider frustration – Providers will always prefer delivering health services to administrative work
- Patient dissatisfaction – Patients become frustrated when their physicians do not give them full attention during the appointment
Besides burnout, it can also lead to loss of income. Your providers may be either inexperienced or unwilling to learn vital front-office processes like insurance verification and payment processing. This will lead to a high chance of first-time unbilled appointments that have an 80% chance of never being billed again.
Instead of your providers performing administrative work, enable dedicated receptionists who are trained and experienced in various aspects of the front desk.
Your receptionists make sure that the front office runs smoothly while enabling your providers to do what they do best.
2. Maximize Your Front Desk Staff’s Capabilities
Are you properly utilizing your receptionists?
Greeting patients, facilitating check-in, and scheduling appointments are some of the basic capabilities of receptionists — but they can do far more for your clinic.
Your receptionists can help solve a crucial pain point in medical practices: cost transparency.
According to a 2015 survey by PNC Healthcare on the patient experience, 79% of respondents expressed that medical care is overpriced, while 77% agreed that billing costs are unpredictable.
And according to a 2019 survey by Accenture on digital consumer health, the top 3 factors of patient satisfaction are:
- Cost of the treatment or insurance coverage (at least 70% of respondents)
- Care transparency (at least 68%)
- Cost transparency (65%)
Your receptionists can help your clinic achieve patient satisfaction.
In particular, they can discuss the following with your patients:
- Total costs of service – They can inform patients about how much the overall treatment plan will be
- Insurance coverage – They can verify whether or not their treatment plan is covered by their insurance
- Payment options – They can help patients determine the best method of financing their treatment
In other words, your front desk staff is vital in promoting financial responsibility with their wellness. This further builds trust with your patients and improves patient retention.
Plus, in the same 2019 survey, Accenture revealed that at least 58% of respondents agree that responsiveness to follow-up questions in calls or emails is another factor of patient satisfaction.
Whether it’s about the treatment itself or any future possible expenses related to the plan, your receptionists can act as the point person for your providers when speaking with patients.
Of course, you can’t simply assign these additional responsibilities to your current receptionists. You have to discuss this possibility with them, ideally with increased compensation and planned training on their part.
3. Conduct Regular Evaluation and Training
A 2022 UK study surveyed a group of receptionists on their perceptions of their role. In the area of training, the research revealed that:
- 72.9% of respondents were trained in customer service
- 64.3%, on the telephone
- 58.6%, in medical administration
- 42.9%, in medical terminology
It also found that nearly 38.3% of respondents were unsatisfied or very unsatisfied with the training they received.
Training your receptionists doesn’t just enable them to bring more value to the company. It also significantly improves staff retention among your receptionists. Most of them may want to constantly explore beyond what they already know in their career. Presenting them with opportunities to grow makes them more productive and more likely to stay in your practice.
Here are some tips on how you can effectively train them:
- Create a set of holistic training protocols that target all areas of the front office
- Conduct training sessions on a regular basis to constantly maintain current skills and possibly upskill your receptionists
- Regularly monitor and evaluate how your staff performs so you can have a clear understanding of how you’ll model their training program
You can also discuss any ideas or insights with your receptionists about how the front desk is performing. Consolidating key stakeholders’ ideas will help identify areas of improvement for your front desk.
4. Use Healthcare Kiosks
Kiosks help significantly in various aspects of the front desk. They can:
- Provide a consistent check-in process – Kiosks feature an intuitive interface that routes patients to the relevant forms to facilitate check-in
- Streamline your front desk workflow – Kiosks automate various front desk processes, including appointment scheduling and EHR management
- Be implemented easily – Kiosks require little to no time to install and modify
Currently, most practices utilize kiosks to automate the entire front desk experience. This may remove the need for human staff at the front desk and decrease staffing costs.
However, it also comes at the cost of the human touch, which is vital to the patient experience. No matter how advanced self-service kiosk technology becomes, it cannot provide the same warmth and cordiality as a human receptionist.
There is a way to combine the best of human receptionists and kiosks, fortunately.
How? Read the next best practice.
5. Streamline Your Receptionists’ Workflow
Despite how well put-together your front desk staffing strategy is, one fact always remains: front desk operations can get tedious and inefficient.
Consider the following factors when managing multiple clinics:
- Receptionist underutilization – Some clinics face higher patient traffic than others, leaving some receptionists less utilized
- Tiring nature of front desk work – Receptionists constantly face the risk of physical and mental exhaustion
- More fulfilling career opportunities – Some receptionists are leaving for fully remote job prospects that offer comfort and convenience with the same compensation
The most effective long-term solution is to alleviate their burdens while increasing their value to the practice by enabling remote work for your receptionists.
You can do this by using kiosks operated by a virtual front desk platform like WelcomeWare, which allows your receptionists to manage the front desk from home. When a patient interacts with a kiosk, a receptionist can live-stream themselves on the screen and facilitate the check-in process.
This setup has numerous significant advantages for your clinic, including:
- Maximum front desk utilization – Each receptionist is capable of covering multiple front desks from a single location
- Higher front desk staff retention – Receptionists are significantly more likely to stay, as the prospect of remote work for a front desk role is very rare
- Reduced costs – You can reduce your headcount and reinvest your cost savings in your best receptionists
- Larger candidate pool – You can access talented front desk talent that would otherwise be inaccessible in an in-person setup due to geographical limitations
WelcomeWare Helps You Staff Your Front Desk
With physical therapy front desk staffing becoming harder than ever, having a remote front desk solution is becoming a must. WelcomeWare is a virtual front desk platform that is designed to enable live-streaming remote reception in physical therapy practices to deliver a streamlined patient experience. Contact us or request a demo today to learn more!
Staff your physical therapy front desk with the best way possible
Use WelcomeWare to create the most effective staffing strategy for your front desk
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