Front office staff are the unsung heroes of many urgent care practices. Not only do they set the tone for every patient visit, they are information gatekeepers with multiple responsibilities. These positions are often filled with entry-level personnel that have little to no experience dealing with the complexities involved in front desk operations.
Fortunately, technology has become sophisticated enough that it can help even the least experienced person be successful. In fact, in a recent Experity survey, 50 percent of all respondents told us that automating processes like online registration have had the biggest impact on their front desk operations over the last year.
But technology doesn’t solve everything. Automating front desk practices won’t completely make up for someone who is a bad fit for the role.
When it’s time to hire, you want to make sure you’re choosing the right person to handle these tasks. Here are five essential qualities the wining candidate should have.
Your front desk officer will be accountable for greeting patients, scanning documents, ensuring signatures are in place, verifying insurance coverage, collecting payments, and keeping patients moving through the queue with less friction. It can be a lot for someone with no experience.
Do you prefer to work on things one at a time, or several at once?
In your opinion, what helps a person be successful at multitasking?
What tools do you use to keep yourself organized?
What’s an example of a time you had to handle multiple things at once, and how did you prioritize?
Since this is often an entry-level position, your candidate may not have had much work experience. And while you cannot ask questions about grades or their family status, they may give you some clues when answering other questions. Does it sound like they’ve had to coordinate and manage family schedules/activities? Did they successfully juggle school and work, or school and other activities? What do they allude to in their responses that suggest they are highly organized?
Not only will they be handling many operational tasks, but they must keep their cool when things get busy – setting the tone for every patient visit and communication with staff.
Tell me about a time you became flustered or stressed and how you handled it.
How do you adjust to changes you have no control over?
Can you give an example of how you work with demanding personalities?
Can you describe a time you made a mistake and how you handled it?
The interview itself is a pretty stressful situation in which they need to handle themselves well under pressure. Their demeanor applies to this exact characteristic. It’s also a great sign if they not only came prepared with questions, but also come up with thoughtful questions based on the specific information you provided during your meeting. It shows they’re listening and thinking on their feet.
You put procedures in place for operational consistency. Disregarding these procedures can affect every step of the urgent care visit not only for the patient, but for clinicians and billers who count on accurate information throughout the patient journey. Be sure you hire someone who understands the importance of following the rules.
Do you work best when your duties are clearly outlined, or do you prefer to figure things out on your own?
Can you tell me about a time you or a group you were in succeeded because a plan was in place?
Obviously, if a candidate is a mess or has made a bunch of mistakes in their resume, you’re likely to dismiss them. However, when you get busy, make sure you don’t accidentally miss glaring signs that the person is not a fit. Remember: the process of applying to a job requires applicants to follow specific rules. Is there anything in their application or resume that suggests they did not carefully follow instructions? Were any requirements ignored? Did they follow basic rules of resume writing and proofreading? Did they show up prepared as directed? One mistake should not raise red flags, but if it’s clear the person did not read or follow instructions on their journey to the interview, that could be telling of their general ability to follow rules.
In urgent care, things change quickly. New technology is adopted, procedures change, policies get updated, and payers change the rules. Choose front desk staff that can learn new processes quickly – and put them in place.
Tell me about a new task you had to learn. How did you go about it, and did you use any tools to do so?
What tasks come most easily to you? Which are most difficult?
It’s not uncommon for urgent cares to hold working interviews — where you assign the candidate some hands-on tasks and see how they perform. You can use this opportunity to give them instruction for data entry or other applicable tasks and see how quickly they pick it up.
An on-demand care environment isn’t for everybody. Be sure you hire someone who understands the specific success metrics for urgent care practices and is dedicated to providing the service your patients expect.
If you were to define your personal brand, what kinds of things would it include?
Why do you want to work in urgent care?
What do you think of when you hear the phrase patient-centered? What does it mean to you right now?
What do you think you would like most about this job?
Here again, their follow-up questions can help you gauge how well aligned they are with your clinic’s values and goals. The same is true if they’re showing genuine interest in what you tell them about the practice, employees, and job responsibilities.
If you’re backfilling roles or are short-staffed, we have more resources that can help. Get tips for hiring and operating more efficiently in an understaffed clinic by watching our on-demand webinar.