5 Front Desk Challenges Every Mental Health Clinic Should Resolve

Jun 30, 2023 | Blog

In mental health clinics, the patient experience is a vital component of successful patient outcomes, and the front desk plays a significant role in facilitating the patient experience.

However, there are challenges that impede the front desk (and, in turn, your clinic) from operating properly.

Here’s everything you need to know.

Why Should You Resolve Your Mental Health Front Desk Challenges?

Usually, therapists take a large part of the credit for administering treatment to patients and ensuring their recovery from their mental health issues. However, patient outcomes are influenced by factors other than provider expertise — and many of these are related to the patient experience.

A 2014 study on patient attrition and satisfaction in mental health clinics collated studies on factors that affect patient withdrawal. Based on the studies collected, some of these factors include:

  • Patient improvement expectations – Patients may be expecting too much or too little from treatment. In both cases, patients may eventually decide that treatment is insufficient to fix their problems
  • Patient-provider relationship – If patients feel disconnected from their therapist, they may think that their therapist is unable to understand their problems
  • Empathy for the patient – Other factors like the front desk, patient engagement, and aftercare can influence how a patient feels about their experience at the clinic
  • Wait times and delays – Waiting too long for their appointment will frustrate and discourage them from continuing their treatment

For 55-70% of patients in the study, it may take a minimum of up to 12 sessions before they can recover. However, there is an estimated total of 47% attrition among the same respondent pool at any point in their treatment plan.

Hence, solving or mitigating the challenges that face your front desk is crucial. Otherwise, you may face patient dissatisfaction and attrition that can hinder your mental clinic from performing at its best.

Challenges That Every Mental Health Front Desk Faces

1. Front Desk Downtime

When no dedicated receptionists are available at your front desk, patients may be left unaccommodated in the waiting area.

If left unresolved, your patients will stop going to your clinic and look elsewhere for treatment.

2. Distracted Therapists

If a clinic lacks dedicated receptionists, the therapists are typically left responsible for performing administrative tasks.

This leads to frustrated patients as no one is available to accommodate them for check-in.

3. Managing Patient Expectations

Patients tend to have expectations about the outcome of their treatment plan. Some patients want positive results after just a few appointments, while others may think that the results will take too long.

The front desk plays an important role in managing their expectations and reassuring them that the treatment is worth their time.

Otherwise, patients will think that the healthcare service in your clinic (or any service at all) is inadequate to solve their problems.

4. Long Wait Times

Patients want to receive treatment as soon as they arrive at the clinic. However, their appointments may be delayed due to their therapists needing more time with previous sessions.
If nothing keeps them engaged or interested in receiving treatment, this will lead to patient dissatisfaction and, eventually, attrition.

5. Patient Engagement

Even if you’ve properly accommodated your patients during their visit to your clinic, they may decide to discontinue treatment outside of it. This is because they’ll eventually be disengaged over time when nothing encourages them to proceed.

How To Resolve Your Front Desk Challenges For The Long Term

Solving the challenges that affect your front desk should be one of your top priorities to ensure that your mental health clinic can run at its best and secure positive patient outcomes.

With that said, here are strategies on how you can resolve their challenges sustainably:

  • Train your staff for empathy. Whether it’s your receptionists or therapists, exercising empathy is vital to the patient experience. Orient your staff on how they should talk and interact with patients
  • Properly staff your front desk. Having dedicated receptionists is one of the most basic yet sustainable strategies with your front desk. Hire a sufficient number of receptionists to minimize front desk downtime and devise a set of workflow protocols in case of unavailable receptionists
  • Keep your therapists in the appointment room. Giving them additional responsibilities on top of treating patients can lead to provider burnout on top of patient attrition. Keep them focused on what they do best while dedicated receptionists take care of front desk tasks
  • Send texts and emails. Patients will greatly appreciate it when their chosen clinic makes them feel accommodated no matter where they are. Assign your front desk staff to send them texts and emails that not only remind them about upcoming appointments but also encourage them to relay any questions or concerns about their treatment
  • Improve your waiting area. The reception room impacts how likely your patients are willing to stay and wait for their appointment. Provide convenient amenities like Wi-Fi and cable TV and, as much as possible, design and lay out the room to feel warm and welcoming

Always remember that the patient experience is one of the most important aspects of the mental health clinic. Thus, to set up your clinic for success, you need to equip and leverage your front desk so that it can keep patients engaged and encouraged to complete their treatment.

Staffing the mental health front desk often has recurring challenges that can affect your overall operations and expenditure. Consider using a virtual live-streaming platform like WelcomeWare that allows you to ensure that there is always someone at the front desk to operate the front desk.

Meet every mental health front desk challenge prepared

Use WelcomeWare to improve patient outcomes and reduce attrition

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