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When you think about the representation of an urgent care clinic, what do you think of first? Is it the building’s physical appearance and cleanliness, how many people are sitting in the waiting room, or the kindness of the front office staff? Even though patient volume and curb appeal both come off as vital, there’s nothing more significant than a cordial and well-trained front office staff.
The front office staff is often the first (and sometimes the last) person your patients talk to—and this sets the tone for the visit. A well-trained front office employee is the start of a delightful experience for patients and the rest of the clinic’s personnel. According to Eileen Ales, MA, RN, of Ales Consulting in Tacoma, WA, the front office staff is “the first and last impression of the place. The front desk employees are the first ones to see your patients, the last ones to see your patients, and they’re the ones who the patients are going to talk to when they have problems. The front desk really carries a lot of weight.”
Eileen is right. The front desk does carry a lot of weight. Here are five characteristics of a good front desk officer:
At the front desk, it is important to have a person who is genuinely good natured. You do not want someone who puts on a fake smile or fakes their happiness. People can spot that from a mile way. Rather, you want someone who has an authentic smile on their face and greets those who come to your clinic with a pleasant attitude. Front office staff cannot allow personal troubles to plague them. They have to be able to keep their private life private and not let any personal drama affect the way they treat patients.
The front desk takes a certain amount of care. Contrary to what some people may think, this is not the place where you hire “cheap” labor. A lack of attention to detail can cause a wealth of problems when it comes to submitting claims (wrong insurance information) or taking care of injured employees (workers’ compensation protocols).
As with attention to detail, the optimal front desk person must also be an excellent multitasker. There will be days where phones are ringing, multiple patients need attention, and a nurse from the back needs an important piece of information. Prioritizing and managing the demands of all these people is often frustrating and overwhelming. However, they all need to be taken care of in an efficient manner. The front office staff should not look like they are out of control and ready to melt down. Having someone who can juggle a handful of tasks, while remaining calm, is the ideal person for your clinic.
Being on the front line of the front office means you are the first and last face the patient sees. Moreover, you are the face that the patient sees the entire time they are in the waiting room. You are continually under their watchful eye. They see more of the clinic and staff than you realize and hear more than you think. So it is a good reminder to be mindful of your demeanor, tone of voice, and the conversations you have with other staff members. It is not just about maintaining HIPAA compliance, it is about the presentation of your business and conveying the right message to your patients.
In many ways, the receptionist is the silent conductor of the train. While many people probably think the physician is running the show, the receptionist can contribute to the success or failure of your clinic. By coordinating and contributing to patient care, the front office staff can alert staff to significantly ill and injured patients that require immediate attention. They can promote good health practices by encouraging the use of masks and hand sanitizer during flu seasons. They can improve marketing efforts by alerting patients to new services being offered at the clinic that they may not be aware of. They can prevent client dissatisfaction by confirming protocols, orders, and particular information as it is provided. Even though much of this goes back to being detail oriented, this is more than just someone doing their job. It is about looking for the ways a person’s job intersects with the rest of the clinical team and making the patient’s experience better.