Front-Office Hacks That Make Work Easier
Your client care team are masters of multi-tasking and problem solvers.
During my 22 years of coaching receptionists, I’ve discovered helpful tips and tricks that make running the front desk easier. You’re going to want to get started now:
1. Get wireless headsets.
Because receptionists answer hundreds of calls daily, headsets will reduce back and neck pain caused from cradling phones on shoulders. The American Physical Therapy Association, doctors, chiropractors, and physiotherapists advise using headsets. Studies show wearing a headset instead of holding the phone can improve productivity up to 43 percent.
Headsets let receptionists talk and type, speeding the time it takes to book appointments and process prescription refill requests. Headsets also can eliminate hold time. While wearing a wireless headset and talking with a client, the receptionist could walk to the pharmacy to confirm that the pet owner’s prescription refill is ready.
A headset keeps the microphone in the same position as receptionists move their heads and speak, so voices sound consistent to callers. Noise-cancelling microphones can remove up to 75 percent of background noise, filtering out sounds of barking dogs and other ringing phones.*1 Ask your phone equipment vendor which headsets are compatible with your telephone system or visit www.headsets.com and www.hellodirect.com. Look for wireless headsets with multi-line function, long battery life, length of range, and comfort.
2. Chime when you need backup.
Animal Hospital of Richboro in Richboro, PA., has a wireless doorbell at the front desk with a chime in the treatment area. When receptionists get overwhelmed with calls, they ring the doorbell to alert nurses that they need extra employees up front. Having a nurse briefly pitch in lets callers experience speedy service and relieves stress on the front-desk team. Buy wireless doorbells from home-improvement stores for $20 to $60.
3. Have new clients complete paperwork ahead of time.
If you wait until check-in, filling out the new client form will suck 10 to 15 minutes from the first exam. You’ll also have to interpret handwriting.
During scheduling calls, tell new clients, “To speed your check-in as a new client, please complete the form at <www.yourwebsite.com> so we may get information about you and your pet before the day of your appointment. The completed form will be immediately emailed to us so your pet’s medical record will be ready when you arrive, and we can start your appointment on time.” Include links to new client forms when confirming upcoming exams with text and email reminders.
4. Let clients book online and through apps.
Did you know the average phone call to schedule a healthcare appointment takes 8 minutes?**2 If a veterinarian sees 20 appointments per day, a client care coordinator invested 160 minutes or 2.6 hours per day to book those exams. In a four-doctor hospital, receptionists collectively spend 10.4 hours per day scheduling appointments.
Your practice-management software and third-party providers can let you offer online scheduling through your website. Clients request up to three appointment choices and provide the reason for the visit, so you know the exam length needed. You simply check the schedule and email the client with the appointment details. The exam also may be confirmed with automated text and email reminders, eliminating phone time.
In the VitusVet app, a majority of appointment requests are sent between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. The busiest time for appointment and prescription refill requests is 5 a.m., when your hospital may be closed. When people are on their smartphones, they spend 70 percent of their time in apps.***3
5. Use text and email together to confirm procedures.
Cut check-in time in half when you set expectations before the day of surgical and dental procedures. Text the client, “See you tomorrow at 8 a.m. for <pet name’s> surgical admission. No food after ___ p.m. Water is OK. We emailed surgical forms to <email>. Reply with questions.” The text prompts the client to check her email, where you can provide detailed fasting instructions and attach consent forms and treatment plans.
Your email message might say, “We will see <pet name> for surgery tomorrow at <Your Veterinary Hospital>. Please withhold food after ___ p.m. tonight. Water is OK to drink to prevent dehydration. Your surgical admission begins at 8 a.m. with a nurse, who will spend 15 minutes reviewing the consent form, answering your questions, and getting phone numbers where we may reach you the day of the procedure. I’ve attached your treatment plan and anesthesia consent forms. To speed your admission, please bring these signed forms with you, or we are happy to answer questions during check-in. Please allow at least 15 minutes for <pet name>’s admission to our hospital. If you have questions, call or text 555-555-5555.”
6. Text or call late clients.
Tardy clients will delay your schedule and cause stress for the medical team who will scramble to catch up. When a client is 15 minutes late, text or call her. Text this message: “We expected to see you at <time> for <pet name>’s appt. Reply YES if you’re on the way, RS to reschedule.” Use texting services such as:
If calling, say, “Hello, <client name>. This is <your name> from <Your Veterinary Hospital>. We expected to see you and <pet’s name> at 3 p.m. Please call us to let us know everything is OK, or to reschedule your exam. We want to help <pet name> get the medical care he/she needs. You may reach us at 555-555-5555.”
If the client will be a no-show, you can move onto the next patient. If the client says she will be 15 minutes late, you can figure out how you’ll see the patient while she’s still traveling to your hospital. Depending on your schedule, you could shift the patient to another doctor if one is available, ask the client to wait and be seen on a work-in basis, or offer a day admission.
Avoid turning away a client who may have been unexpectedly delayed due to someone’s traffic accident that was beyond her control. Be a problem-solver and help patient care happen. The front-office team’s ability to be productive and efficient directly impacts the number of patients you see and hospital revenue.
*1 – Benefits of Headsets. Available at: www.headsets.com/headsets/guide/right1.html. Accessed March 10, 2019.
**2 – 6 Ways to Schedule Patients Effectively and Efficiently. Solutionreach. Posted Aug. 18, 2017. Available at: www.solutionreach.com/blog/how-to-schedule-patients-effectively. Accessed March 10, 2019.
***3 – Postcard reminders: 3 reasons you’re kidding yourself. VitusVet. Published Nov. 8, 2016. Available at http://content.vitusvet.com/blog/postcard-reminders-3-reasons-youre-kidding-yourself. Accessed March 10, 2019.