Great customer service is always important for medical practices, but there are several other elements that lead to a high-performing front office – all of which require more training in an era of higher staff turnover and a short supply of experienced workers.
An April 25, 2023, MGMA Stat poll asked medical group leaders where they faced the biggest challenges in training front desk workers:
- Scheduling (26%) and customer service (26%) tied for the top response in the poll.
- Close behind was training on payments (23%).
- About 13% of respondents noted technology or the EHR as their biggest training challenge.
- “Other” accounted for more than 1 in 10 (12%) responses, with many practice leaders telling MGMA that “all of the above” would adequately reflect the degree to which they are focused on helping newly hired workers in the front office learn the ropes. Addressing insurance verification was also an often cited area that needed more front desk staff training.
It is important to supply training that enhances both patient and employee satisfaction. A robust training program ensures that staff members are knowledgeable about the practice’s policies and procedures and improves the quality of patient care.
A medical practice should focus training in the following areas:
- Customer service skills: Front office staff are the first point of contact for patients, so it's crucial that they have excellent customer service skills. This should include how to greet patients, handle complaints and communicate effectively.
- Appointment scheduling: Staff need to know how to schedule appointments efficiently while also managing the provider's schedule. This should include knowledge of different appointment types, appointment length and booking guidelines. It should also include appointment reminders and how to handle any follow-up care questions that may arise.
- Insurance verification and billing: The front office staff must understand how to verify insurance coverage, determine patient financial responsibility and handle billing and payments. This includes knowledge of insurance plans, co-pays, deductibles and how to process claims.
- HIPAA compliance: Staff need to understand HIPAA regulations, patient privacy laws and the importance of protecting patient information. This includes understanding the guidelines for patient consent, confidentiality and how to handle security breaches. There is specific HIPAA paperwork that a patient will need to sign.
- Electronic health record (EHR) systems: Most medical practices use an EHR for patient data management, and it is important that staff know how to navigate the system and all compliance requirements that go along with patient data management.
- Office policy and procedures: Front office staff should be trained in office policies and procedures, including safety protocols, emergency procedures and the use of office equipment.
Documenting employee training helps to mantain compliance with relevant regulations and can serve as reference for future training. Medical practices should update their training manual regularly and have staff review it at least yearly. A learning management system (LMS) can help to streamline the training process and make it easier to document employee training. A medical practice should evaluate their training program and encourage feedback so that improvements can be made. This also keeps employees engaged in the training process.
Providing staff with the knowledge and skills necessary in a medical practice can help ensure that the practice delivers the best care to patients. Any challenges can be addressed through ongoing education, a comprehensive training program, ongoing education, and a supportive work environment to ensure that front desk staff are competent and equipped to handle their responsibilities efficiently and effectively.
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