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What is a Front Desk Officer?

The differences between a front desk officer and other front desk positions lie in A) the scope of duties, and B) the individual business. For example, a receptionist is typically charged with more limited duties like answering phones and fielding customer questions. But in urgent care, the front desk is responsible for so much more. They are the heart of your clinic — they manage scheduling, registration, collections, and other data entry and customer-facing tasks that impact door-to-door time, patient satisfaction, and payment recoupment.

Distinguishing between front staff titles in urgent care is a bit complex. With recent staffing shortages and other factors impacting revenue potential, some clinics are cross-training other staff like MAs to cover front-of-the-house duties. Depending on the size of the clinic, a front desk officer may be exclusive to a leadership role that could even be synonymous with the office manager.

So, with no set industry designation, we will use a broad meaning of “front desk officer” that is interchangeable with “front desk staff.” It goes beyond the typical job description of a receptionist to cover all administrative tasks associated with the beginning and end of the patient journey.

Does a title distinction really matter? For your employees, it absolutely can, especially considering they work with PhD-level colleagues. You don’t want employees to feel like they’re seen as “just” receptionists (though receptionists have an incredibly important job.) You want them to know they directly contribute to both the patient experience and the success of the business. “Front Desk Officer” has an air of importance that this cohort deserves.


Learn how to Help Your Front Desk Staff own and Understand Their Contributions

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Front Desk Officer Skills and Responsibilities

Just like any job in your urgent care clinic, you want to staff the right people in the right roles. Before you can think about hiring, you want to define the responsibilities so you can best determine what qualities your ideal candidates should possess.

Overview of Front Desk Responsibilities

Clinics may differ in how they divide administrative tasks between separate roles. Generally speaking, hiring for front desk means you’re covering:

  • Incoming phone calls
  • Preregistration (if not available online)
  • Registration/check-in
  • Scheduling (if available)
  • Insurance verification
  • Other data collection not covered in registration/verification process
  • Room preparation (in some cases)
  • Data entry based on provider notes
  • Claim submission
  • Co-payments/collections/payment plans
  • Follow-up communication (if not automated)

We’ll dive more into what you can do to support the quality and efficiency of your front desk staff in the How to Help your Front Desk Staff be More Efficient section.

Characteristics of a Good Front Desk Officer

Working in urgent care requires a high level of organization, attention to detail, ability to grasp somewhat complex concepts, and compassion. Within your front desk team, you may want to silo some tasks based on employee strengths. For example, some people are very comfortable asking for money (especially with a good script,) while others will never be great at it — but may be extremely good at the rest of the duties.

Your candidates may not have much work experience since this is an entry-level job, so it can be hard to determine skillset based on job history. Here are five characteristics that you don’t need a rich employment history to determine and will help a candidate be successful in this role.

  1. They can handle multiple responsibilities efficiently

Any front desk person may have to greet patients, scan documents, confirm signatures, verify insurance coverage, collect payments, and keep patients moving through the queue with minimal friction.

  1. They can handle these multiple responsibilities with grace

The front desk staff’s ability to keep their cool when things get busy sets the tone for every patient visit as well as the working environment for others.

  1. They understand the importance of SOPs

Disregarding your standard operating procedures can affect every step of the urgent care visit — not only for the patient, but also 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.

  1. They’re fast learners

Change happens quickly in urgent care. New technology is adopted, procedures change, policies get updated, and payers change the rules. Choose front desk staff who can quickly learn and adopt new processes.

  1. They’re committed to your mission

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.

In the next section, we’ll give you interview tips on how to determine if your candidate has these five skills.


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Interviewing and Hiring Tips for Front Desk Staff

Labor demands have had a huge impact on the urgent care industry for the last couple of years. The high demand that came with COVID-19 lead to burnout, quitting, and other absences that have left clinics short-staffed. On top of replacing staff, wage and salary demands have skyrocketed.

Given all this, your time as a hiring manager is very limited — as is your window to supplement your workforce. By optimizing your hiring strategy, you can save yourself time and find the most cost-effective strategy to build up your head count. Here are a few tips from our panel of experts who spoke in the Experity webinar “How to Operate Your Urgent Care in an Understaffed Environment.”

Optimize Your Hiring Strategy

  1. Hire students who are about to graduate​

Externships can be a win-win situation when you find a student who is a great fit for your clinic. They’re typically unpaid, and if they’re good, you can hire them when they graduate. They’ll require less training than other new hires. And while they can’t perform certain tasks unsupervised, simply having an extra person relieves stress for the rest of the staff. Have them contribute in whatever way is most helpful, including registration or other patient engagement responsibilities.

  1. Choose job boards that help you filter unqualified candidates

Posting open positions to sites like Indeed helps you cast a wider net​, but also helps you weed out candidates you do not want. You’re able to set certain filters for better candidates. On Indeed, that includes “dealbreakers” — so if someone does not have a necessary license or certification, for example, that applicant won’t make it to your inbox.

  1. Respond to applicants quickly​

Your applicants are in high demand. A good candidate probably has many options; get with them before they take another offer. Two ways you can reply faster is by having a person dedicated to reaching out or setting aside an allotted time each day to correspond with applicants.

Ask the Right Questions

As mentioned above, there are five core skills you want to seek out in your most promising applicants. To use your interview time most effectively, here are some tips on how to flush out these skills.

Questions to help you determine multi-tasking:

  • 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?

Other clues that they may be a fit:

While you cannot ask questions about grades or their family status, you may be able to extract some clues about their skills from other information they provide. Do they speak to coordinating and managing family schedules/activities? Did they successfully juggle school and work, or school and other activities? What do their responses suggest about their ability to organize?

Questions to help you determine how gracefully they handle stress:

  • 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?

Other clues that they may be a fit:

The interview itself is a stressful situation in which they need to work 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.

Questions to help you determine how well they follow 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?

Clues that they may not be a fit:

The process of applying to a job requires applicants to follow specific rules. Don’t be so rushed that you miss red flags during the initial screening process. 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? 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 regard for rules.

Questions to help you determine learning abilities:

  • 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?

Other ways to assess:

It’s not uncommon for urgent cares to hold working interviews. Assign the candidate some hands-on tasks and see how they perform. Use this opportunity to provide instruction for data entry or other applicable tasks and see how quickly they pick them up.

Questions to help you determine their commitment to your vision:

  • 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?

Other clues that they may be a fit:

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.

Bonus Tip

Since you can’t wait for that perfect candidate to magically appear, you need to think about what personalities fit your brand, as well as transferable skills/experience, and willingness to learn. Also consider what you can teach the right person.

Kami Scruggs, COO of iCare Urgent Care Centers, shared a great tip in the Experity webinar “Improve Your Front Desk Efficiency With the Right People and Tools.”

As Scruggs put it, “Hire for will, not skill.” This may be the most important quality a front desk officer can have. If someone has the desire and motivation to show up, do a good job, and further their career, a good training program can fill in the rest. Some additional attributes to look for include:

  • Bubbly/positive personality
  • Excellent customer service history
  • Experience/skill with data entry
  • Want to do a good job
  • Understands complexities of healthcare

Webinar: How to Operate Your Urgent Care in an Understaffed Environment

Listen to front-line experts share their tips on how to make your clinic run effectively when you’re understaffed. They share:

  • How to best utilize limited staff
  • How to schedule smarter
  • How to react to surges in volume
  • When and how to cross-train
  • How to fill gaps with technology solutions

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How to Help your Front Desk Staff be More Efficient

The pace of your front desk staff helps dictate the length of time patients spend in the clinic. And how they manage patient information directly impacts how smoothly claims are accepted. Here are a few tips from our front desk experts on how to be as efficient as possible.

Urgent Care Patient Engagement Software

Preregistration

We cannot overstate this: one of the easiest, fastest, most impactful ways to improve your front desk operations is to utilize preregistration. This is a patient engagement tool that allows patients to digitally input registration information before they arrive at the clinic. They submit things like insurance details, demographics, preferred pharmacy, and primary care physician. It saves time on data entry and also reduces clerical errors.

In-Person Registration

Even patients who preregister will still need to complete the registration process once they’re at the clinic. This is your staff’s opportunity to doublecheck the accuracy of critical information and capture details that weren’t collected online. This will not only help your claim accuracy, but also enable better preparation for the visit so throughput is faster.

For example, asking the reason for their visit allows staff to prep the exam room with necessary supplies. If a patient comes in with a laceration, staff can make sure there’s a laceration tray ready. You will also know to treat that patient before one who came in for a pre-travel COVID test.

Most importantly, you should have a registration checklist as part of a documented standard operating procedure (SOP.) Some things to include on your checklist are:

  • Make sure their name matches the insurance card —mistakes are easily made with nicknames (Bill vs William) and suffixes (Jr. Sr.)
  • Confirm date of birth
  • Ask for preferred method of contact
  • Ask about guarantor
  • Confirm you have the correct insurance carrier
  • Reason for visit
  • Credit card on file
  • Check and collect past balances

Automate Where Possible

Preregistration isn’t the only tech that can help your front desk. Other patient engagement tools and those within your EMR/PM help you automate tasks, track data, and get the feedback you need to succeed. Some powerful tools that can improve efficiency for your front desk staff are:

  • Smart queues, virtual lines, and other varieties of appointment scheduling (through patient engagement software)
  • Reputation management (through post-visit surveys and online reviews)
  • Credit card on file
  • Real time verification (for insurance eligibility)
  • Payment balance and reminder texts

Urgent Care Staff Working On Technology


Turn Your Front Desk into an Efficiency Machine

Get the urgent care guide to front desk efficiency. Download the eBook and learn how to:

  • Cut down registration time and get patients seen more quickly
  • Consistently capture correct information for clean claims
  • Improve the overall patient experience
  • Hire and train for prolonged success

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