How Your Front Desk Can Help With PT Patient Documentation And Make Light Work of Paperwork

May 9, 2024 | Blog, Front Desk, Healthcare

57% of physical therapist burnout is caused by patient documentation.


Patient documentation is one of the most burdensome tasks for physical therapists (PTs). In fact, it’s one of the top causes of PT stress and burnout.

Providers look forward to administering treatments to improve their patients’ well-being. But the documentation afterward? Far fewer PTs are eager to some degree, if any.

Achieving optimal clinical productivity requires your providers to perform at their best. If patient documentation stops that, you must find a way to streamline it.

Fortunately, you need not look further than your front desk.

Here’s how.

Common Patient Documentation Challenges In Physical Therapy

Providers face numerous challenges with physical therapy documentation. Here are five common hurdles they experience:

  1. Inaccurate or lacking information. Accurate, complete information is of utmost importance to PTs, as these are required for creating and coordinating patient treatment plans.
  2. Compliance with HIPAA and other regulations. PTs are hard-pressed to ensure their documentation complies with HIPAA, as legal repercussions may ensue should they be non-compliant.
  3. Constantly being pressed for time. A 2011 study published by the National Library of Medicine found that PTs spend 20 minutes up to nearly 2 hours on note-taking alone, which consumes a lot of time away from patients.
  4. Physician stress and burnout. The continuous burden of patient documentation can have lasting adverse effects on the well-being of your PTs.
  5. Other administrative responsibilities. Checking in patients, scheduling appointments, and billings are some of the other tasks that PTs often need to do.

These issues, among other unlisted challenges, affect your providers. If left unchecked, they can harm PT productivity, job satisfaction, and retention.

Ways Your Front Desk Can Help With PT Documentation

Time is one of the key reasons why physical therapy documentation is challenging. When PTs are burdened with too many responsibilities, they must divide their attention among their tasks. This always happens at the expense of their emotional well-being, quality of work, and, in the long run, staff retention and patient satisfaction.

One of the most effective ways of alleviating the burden on your PTs is with front desk receptionists. Some PT clinics may have chosen to operate without receptionists, but having front desk staff substantially benefits your clinical operations in the long run.

With receptionists, you can ensure that your PTs can focus more on patient appointments and documentation by having your front desk staff shoulder their administrative workload.

Here are six ways how:

1. Greeting patients and facilitating the check-in process

Accommodating patients at the front desk is one of the most crucial parts of the patient experience. Patients expect to be received warmly the moment they enter their clinic. However, inundated PTs will struggle with alternating between checking in patients and doing patient documentation on top of conducting appointments.

Receptionists are trained to greet and check in patients with warmth. They specialize in accommodating patients when they enter the clinic and can maintain a hospitable demeanor throughout the day. Well-trained receptionists can also help reduce wait times and keep the patient experience smooth.

With a properly structured workflow, you can ensure your PTs have a more manageable bandwidth for patient documentation while your receptionists keep the front desk fully covered.

2. Scheduling and managing patient appointments

Managing patient appointments is complex. In addition to patient availability and preference, provider workload must also be considered. Congested patient schedules leave PTs with little room to work on patient documentation.

With many factors to consider, PTs will be hard-pressed to achieve manageable patient scheduling before continuing patient documentation. On the other hand, receptionists can entirely focus on managing patient schedules in a way that will be viable among all providers.

Receptionists can also send text or email reminders to patients to help reduce cancellations and no-shows at your clinic.

3. Collections, billings, and copays

80% of appointments that are unbilled the first time are never billed again.

Being preoccupied with patient documentation may lead to missed or incomplete billings, resulting in lesser profits.

With adequately trained receptionists, you can ensure that every appointment is billed on time.

4. Verifying insurance eligibility

Insurance verification is another complex aspect of front desk operations. Knowledge of insurance providers is necessary to determine whether a patient’s chosen insurance plan covers their treatment. Otherwise, you may end up with:

  • Unpaid claims
  • Lesser profits
  • Lower patient satisfaction

Receptionists can relieve your PTs of the burden of insurance verification, allowing them to focus more on patient appointments and documentation.

5. Managing and updating EMRs

Electronic medical records (EMRs) significantly streamline patient documentation while increasing data security and accessibility. However, providers still face issues when dealing with EMRs.

While physical therapists favor electronic medical records, they find their management time-consuming and want to integrate them into their workflow while alleviating administrative burdens.

(Margreet B. Michel-Verkerke)

The best solution is to have your providers handle the physical therapy documentation while your receptionists update your EMRs with their notes using the right tools. WelcomeWare, for example, is a virtual receptionist and front desk software platform and management system that works side-by-side with any EMR system while allowing your front desk staff to perform all their responsibilities remotely.

You may also consider upgrading your PTs’ equipment to optimize the patient documentation process even further. Tools such as ScribePT significantly streamline note-taking while allowing your providers to focus on the patient, not the notes.

Optimize your documentation workflow even further with ScribePT, an AI-powered physical therapy documentation platform that streamlines and automates the note-taking process. Ease the burden of documentation and save over 20 hours per month for your physical therapists!

6. Coordinating patient care plans

Your more tenured receptionists may be more involved with patient treatment via care coordination.

Patient care planning helps your clientele with financing and treatment adherence while answering concerns about the success of their therapy.

In addition, having your receptionists play the role of patient care coordinators (with additional compensation) takes away a significant portion of your PTs’ workload.

How To Leverage Your Receptionists To Help In PT

Your front desk staff can significantly impact your PTs’ workflow and ease their administrative burden. However, you need to implement effective protocols in your staffing strategy to ensure that you maximize their value.

Here are a few tips to make the most out of your receptionists to improve your operations:

  • Conduct regular front desk training. Equip your receptionists with the expertise and familiarity to maintain smooth operations at the front desk (e.g., skills such as answering calls and scheduling appointments). This leaves your PTs with fewer things to think about during their work.
  • Promote rapport and teamwork among your staff. A study by Rob Cross and the Institute for Corporate Productivity found that companies were at least five times more productive if they promoted collaborative working among team members.
  • Minimize and transfer your PTs’ administrative responsibilities to your receptionists. Ensure that your PTs can fully focus on patient appointments and documentation. If possible, delegate some patient documentation to your top-performing receptionists (in exchange for additional compensation).
  • Assign your receptionists to remind your PTs to complete documentation. Your front desk staff can support your PTs simply by giving them a gentle heads-up about any pending documentation they need to complete.
  • Consider a remote work setup. Live-streaming receptionist kiosk solutions like WelcomeWare allow you to maximize the value of your receptionists across multiple locations.

The Front Desk Helps Achieve Physical Therapy Success

The patient experience is one of the most crucial elements of PT success, and your front desk has a significant role in facilitating that experience.

Your receptionists achieve this by preserving the human connection with your patients when they enter your clinic. They also support your providers by shouldering their administrative burdens, allowing them to focus on their core responsibilities and deliver the highest quality care to patients.

Discover how WelcomeWare, a virtual front desk check-in software and hardware solution, can help you maximize the value of your receptionists by projecting them on patient check-in kiosks. This allows them to cover multiple clinics simultaneously and support your providers from anywhere.

Empower your receptionists to improve patient care quality

Learn how WelcomeWare can enable your receptionists to do more for your practice

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