• Viewpoint: 5 Front Office Qualities That Improve Practice Operations and Patient Experience


    Viewpoint is a new column created by AAOE® specifically for ophthalmologists and leaders in practice management.

    "The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team." 
    – Phil Jackson, former professional basketball player, coach and executive in the National Basketball Association

    Successful businesses recruit team members much like sports teams do — by finding talent well-suited for a particular role. Your front office staff can be one of your greatest assets when it comes to improving practice operations and the patient experience. Watch out for these star qualities in your potential players:

    1. They pay close attention to detail.
    Patient intake mistakes, such as incorrectly entered demographics, can lead to rejected claims. Invalid or outdated insurance details can lead to denials. An attentive front-office staff will catch even the smallest of issues before they become big problems.

    A pro player will have an eagle eye while still being able to see the big picture.

    2. Their organizational skills can’t be beat.
    Organized people can stay on track even when they encounter the unexpected thanks to the systems they’ve put in place. Great receptionists have both the talent and enthusiasm to implement and maintain processes that will help them find files or phone numbers at a moment’s notice. Their tidy work space will make it easy and pleasant for colleagues to step in to cover when needed.

    How can you tell if your candidates have what it takes? Ask them to explain a filing system they’ve implemented or how they prefer to set up calendars and contacts.

    3. They’re great at triaging and ordering priorities.
    Some days the phones ring off the hook, multiple patients need attention and technicians in the back need important info stat. Someone who can juggle a handful of tasks while still remaining cool and collected is the ideal person for your clinic. They’ll make sure everything gets done and nothing falls through the cracks. 

    The real stars enlist help from teammates if they’re starting to feel overwhelmed.

    4. Their communication skills are top notch.
    Whether it’s clarifying something a doctor wrote, consulting with a biller or effectively communicating with patients, it’s important that your front office team can clearly communicate questions and concerns. They’ll know that communication is a two-way street and have fantastic listening skills as well.

    Is your staff varsity-level? They’ll tailor their style to best match who they’re communicating with.

    5. Above all, they’re brilliant problem solvers.
    Navigating health insurance and medical billing can sometimes seem like working a puzzle. From obtaining referrals for services to checking insurance eligibility, front office staff need to be able to quickly and efficiently guide a problem through to a solution.

    Wondering if a candidate has what it takes? Ask them to tell you about a time that they helped untangle a tricky situation. 


    About the Author

    Lindsay Stratton, MHA, OCS is director of operations at Eye Med Management Solutions, an ophthalmology-focused outsource billing and practice management company. She has her BA in political science and history from the University of Colorado and a master’s in health care administration from Chapman University. She can be reached at lindsay@eyemedmanagement.com or 760.451.6412.