Can I Run My Physical Therapy Clinic without a Receptionist?
The importance of a physiotherapy receptionist/patient care coordinator at your physical therapy clinic cannot be overstated. But how important are they? And, is it possible to run a physical therapy practice without one?
Answer: Very important. They are an integral member of any physical therapy clinic. When absent, their presence is sorely missed as they’re the administrative backbone of the practice. They are the glue that holds the front desk together.
Why are physical therapy receptionists so important?
Your receptionist is tremendously valuable to your physical therapy clinic. Responsible for making the first impression on your patients, their warm smile and friendly voice are important in making the patient feel welcomed and safe.
A large element of a physical therapy receptionist’s importance is derived from their impact on the check-in process. Solely responsible for checking in a patient prior to their appointment, their responsibilities can include:
- Creating patient accounts in your EMR system
- Ensuring patient intake forms are completed
- Insurance verification
- Collecting payment and processing copays
- Scheduling and rescheduling appointments
- Assisting patients when completing patient outcome forms
The scope of their role demonstrates their specialization and importance. Whether performing administrative tasks or enriching the customer experience by reinforcing the values of your clinic, one can understand why they are sorely missed by both patient and practice when absent.
Reasons why a physical therapy clinic may not have a receptionist:
- No Need – They are single location family practices which handle all administrative tasks by themselves.
- Hire, Train, Retain – The physical therapy practice struggles to hire, train and retain receptionists. Often tenure for a receptionist is between 3 – 6 months. Leaving practice owners moving through the hire, train, retain 2 -3 times per year.
- Front Desk Absenteeism – Receptionists are either on lunch, on vacation, out sick or attending to unforeseen circumstances.
Can a physical therapy clinic operate efficiently without a receptionist?
For brief periods of time it is possible to operate your physical therapy clinic without a receptionist. Providers, techs and other administrative staff may check-in patients when a receptionist is out or not available.
However, it does beg the question: What important tasks are other members of your practice stepping away from when filling in for your missing receptionist? And, what are the consequences for your physical therapy practice when members who aren’t appropriately trained, temporarily fill in at the front desk?
Some consequences include:
- Collection issues – Providers concerned with treating their patients may miss steps throughout the check-in process. Such as appropriately completing intake paperwork, collecting and processing payments and scheduling patients’ future appointments.
- Frustration – Providers experience frustration when time spent treating a patient is lost due to additional administrative tasks.
- Impaired performance – Built up frustration and an inefficient check-in process will negatively affect your staffs’ morale and may lead to your providers experiencing exhaustion and, later, burnout.
Eventually, the lack of service, increased waiting times, decreased time with their provider and time spent playing catch up settling bills sent late due to the provider not collecting payment at time of service all result in a negative patient experience. One which will leave your patients searching for another provider.
To answer the question, it is possible, but with a lot of compromises. And these compromises over time can be detrimental to your practice.
How to set your receptionists up for success
How do you set your clinic’s receptionists up for success, and are you doing everything you can to support their job function?
Here are 4 ways you can support your receptionists:
1. Provide Adequate Training
Your receptionists are only as good as the training you provide. Make sure your front desk team is appropriately and frequently trained on your clinic’s systems and processes. It is important they understand the workflows of your physical therapists and who to report to when encountering a problem.
2. Simplifying job function and operating systems
Over complicating their position can be the fastest way to overwhelm your receptionists. Simplifying their job function can improve the efficiency of the clinic. Example: Have your receptionists focus on specific tasks such as patient check-in, while dedicating another member of your front desk team to handle insurance verifications.
Simplifying your clinic’s operating systems can aid your receptionists to perform at optimal efficiency. Consolidating all elements of the patient check-in process into one portal can improve the efficiency of your receptionists and clinic.
3. Acknowledge and Integrate
Your receptionists are important members of your team. Acknowledging and integrating your receptionists into the rest of your practice will help them feel valued and heard. Incorporating your front desk team in your weekly/monthly team meetings could be the best thing you’ve ever done. Their frequent contact with your clinic’s patients makes them a valuable resource. They are likely to notice unfavorable trends, inefficiencies and poor patient experiences before other members of your team.
4. Offer flexibility
Remember, your receptionists are humans too. They have families and lives outside of your clinic. Unexpected events happen and when they do, your receptionists need to know you’ll support them. Allow your receptionists the flexibility to work from home. Encourage them to attend their kid’s soccer games, to go on holiday and prioritize their mental and physical health. As a result they will always bring the best version of themselves to work and will remain your biggest advocates.
A well trained, efficient receptionist is instrumental in ensuring the smoothness of your clinic’s operations. Without one your patients, practitioners and practice will suffer. One way to fully maximize your receptionists skills is to consider transitioning them to a virtual receptionist setup using a platform like WelcomeWare.
Offering a work from home option through WelcomeWare will empower your clinic and your receptionist team. The platform ensures permanent coverage of your front desk as your physiotherapy receptionists can cover multiple clinics at the same time. This solution allows you to leverage their unique skill set at all times. Meaning, administrative processes are always adhered to, practitioners remain focused on treating patients, and your patient’s positive experience is maintained. Not to mention an increase in productivity and efficiency as your receptionist has the ability to complete all elements of the check-in process remotely.
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