Administrative staff play a big role in the success of a healthcare practice. Long before patients meet with you or other providers, they interact with your staff over the phone and in the waiting room. The same is true after an appointment concludes. If patients have questions about a medical bill or similar item, they speak with your support or billing staff.
Front-office staff must provide friendly, timely service to patients while also meeting the needs of healthcare providers. They must often juggle conflicting priorities and manage many different tasks at once. It’s easily apparent that small- and medium-sized healthcare practices need to hire and support great people to ensure smooth operations. But what’s less apparent is how many of them you need.
Read on to learn how you can determine how many office staff members your healthcare practice needs and how automation can help keep the number of staff at a minimum without compromising service.
Measure hours of work needed by front-office staff
To properly staff your practice’s front desk, first, consider all the tasks you want a front-office staff person to do. Some tasks to consider include:
- Booking and confirming patient appointments
- Checking patients in and out
- Verifying insurance benefits
- Accepting and processing copays
- Submitting insurance claims
- Responding to emails and voicemails
- Fielding patients’ non-medical questions
- Maintaining and pulling files
- Processing new patient paperwork
- Updating existing patient paperwork
- Managing practice marketing
- Processing feedback and satisfaction surveys
Next, estimate how much time these tasks take. The easiest way to do this is to speak with your current staff. It is also a good idea to interview front-office staff at a medical colleague’s practice to collect more data points — just be sure to compensate them for their time. After you apply the number of hours per task across the different types of tasks, you’ll have an estimate of how many hours of work must be completed in a day. Add 25% to that estimate to allow for breaks, time off, illness, emergencies, and inevitable lulls in productivity.
Now, divide the daily hours needed by 8 — the assumed hours of a full-time employee — to uncover the number of people you need on a daily basis.
Remember that job experience is a factor as well when deciding how many administrators to bring on. Highly efficient, experienced front desk staff might complete more work in a day than their less experienced counterparts, but they will require higher compensation.
Automate office tasks for a streamlined front office
People are only part of the equation. Although hiring more administrators can help you create a streamlined front office, so can automation. Technological office management tools focused on patient satisfaction help healthcare practices automate administrative tasks, including scheduling appointments and asking for feedback. Benefits of this technology include:
- Online scheduling gives your patients the power to book appointments without tying up phone lines
- Digital intake forms reduce the need to manually enter paper intake forms into the electronic health record (EHR)
- Insurance verification coupled with automation can both save staff time spent double-checking benefits and reduce surprises for patients who can make informed decisions according to their coverage in advance
- Automated text or email confirmations and reminders eliminate the need to call patients to confirm appointments while also reducing the likelihood of costly last-minute cancellations and no-shows
- Automated patient surveys help you gather important feedback to help your practice improve and respond to patients’ concerns
Although implementing new technology initially requires a learning curve, the payoff in efficiency once your front-office staff is used to the new system is worth it. With repetitive manual labor that doesn’t benefit from personalization removed from the equation, your staff will be free to focus on higher-value tasks like connecting with in-person patients.
Understand your front office to gauge staffing
Understanding your front office’s staffing needs involves understanding the tasks that must be done, how long it takes to complete them, the role of automation, and the type of staff member who will be skilled at rising to the challenge of improving the patient experience.
Ensuring your office is staffed at optimal levels will lead to better employee happiness and, ultimately, patients who are pleased with their experience at your practice.
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