From the moment patients step into your ophthalmology office, they’re taking mental notes on everything they see. Even something as simple as catching your front desk staff on an off day can affect how they feel about your practice—and whether they return. Even when a perfect storm of snafus seemingly turns your office upside down, it’s important to put your best foot forward for new and returning patients.
To run a successful medical practice, you need a few things: an administrative staff to handle patient communications and paperwork, policies to dictate issues like cancellations and payment and business insurance for ophthalmologists in case an accident or miscommunication occurs.
To start, avoid these four front-office antics that can damage your practice’s relationships with patients and ultimately, your reputation.
You have to remember that the patients stepping through your door aren’t as familiar with the office environment as your staff is. It’s true that efficient communication is key. But staff members that display curtness, raised voices or impatience will likely cement a negative impression of your office in the minds of your waiting-room patrons.
Front office administrators should uphold positive communication standards. That means no gossipy conversations behind the desk, no dismissing patients and no unprofessional conduct. As Chron points out, administrators and support staff should be trained in phone, electronic and face-to-face etiquette, as they’re the first point of contact.
Medical billing is anything but simple. Anything that your practice can do to make it a smooth process will be advantageous. This includes offering electronic payment (including having a credit card on file), following up with patients in a timely manner and taking the time to explain charges if need be.
Remember, patients appreciate discretion in this area. Making the process understandable and communicative will help alleviate some of their anxieties. For example, maybe a patient just switched insurance policies and isn’t sure how their new one will charge them for an upcoming eye surgery. Working with them to figure out the answer will earn you major points and help the procedure happen as planned.
There’s no doubt about it: It’s frustrating when a patient misses their set appointment. Having a firm no-show policy included in your patient consent form (as well as posted around the office) is a solid start. Some practices choose to add a no-show fee, the average of which is around $25. This incentivizes patients to call in advance to cancel.
If someone fails to show up for their appointment, make sure your staff handles it with professional aplomb. Call the patient to politely check on their reason for absence, and explain what the procedure will be going forward, depending on how many “strikes” your written policy contains.
What if it’s not the patient who’s late for their appointment…it’s the doctor? Patients often wonder why their appointments don’t start on time. Some factors are simply out of your control—whether someone’s retinal photograph showed an unexpected anomaly or a first-time patient has lots of questions about her options for contacts. Or perhaps the first patient of the day showed up late, pushing subsequent appointments back.
If your ophthalmology practice struggles to stay on track with appointments, consider implementing cycle-time measurement to see which areas are lagging during patient visits. You may also want to carve out small pockets of time during the day as “catch up” buffers so even if the morning is hectic, your afternoon can get back on track.
Running a successful ophthalmology office involves keeping track of all the moving parts. Just remember to take front-office antics as seriously as you handle exam-room ones for a better patient experience.
And don’t forget—business insurance for ophthalmologists is the best backup in case of an accident or disagreement. Explore your policy options with CoverHound today.