By Christine Ingram, Senior Consultant
Errors at the front desk can cause denied claims in your practice, but with a few simple exercises, many of these discrepancies can be avoided. Most of these errors are caused by putting incorrect information into the patient’s account, and many can be avoided, including incorrect demographic information and insurance information on the patient. For most office managers this is not earth-shattering news, as looking for ways to reduce front desk errors has been an ongoing challenge for many practices.
There are several steps you can take to avoid the front office errors and pitfalls that cause denials and other inefficiencies in the office.
Review of Processes
One of the first steps to reducing front desk errors is to review and understand your processes. Are they consistent, easy to manage, and not too labor intensive? This is important because the same process will be used for times of low patient volume and times of high patient volume. Talk to your employees about the current processes and work together to try and streamline the steps. Look for areas of redundancies in your processes and eliminate them. In your attempts to ensure that you have recorded everything, you are duplicating efforts and causing more work for front office staff.
Staff Training and Education
Next, make sure your front office staff is trained on your practice management system. When hiring new staff comes at a time when a practice is short staffed, and because we are short staffed when they are hired on, the tendency is to skimp the training the new hire, or to skip it altogether. This fragmented education can lead to increased errors when entering information into the data system. Make sure staff understand the importance of entering patient demographic and insurance information correctly. Many times, front office staff members are not aware of the billing process and how the claims are generated. Diagram the steps that the claim goes through from beginning to end. Understanding the revenue cycle and how claims can be denied when incorrect information is entered will help raise awareness of the importance of entering information correctly the first time.
Raising Patient Awareness
Educate your patients on their financial obligations up front. Having a strong financial policy in place that your patients understand can save your staff from having to collect over-the-counter payments at the front desk. Create tools for collecting over-the-counter payments, and offer several payment options. This will increase your overall revenue with less time and effort for your front desk.
Working with Insurance
Make sure staff is verifying insurance prior to the office visit. This will save time once the patient arrives and it will increase collections.
Use claim scrubbing software to help catch “unclean” claims and track the reasons claims were not able to be billed. Track these errors and review them weekly with staff. Set benchmarks for improvement and monitor and give frequent feedback on improvements.
Tracking Errors and Workflow
Assign tasks to staff and create personalized “task sheets” to be filled out daily. Front desk staff work in roles that require multi-tasking, but because these positions can be very multifaceted, it is easy for staff to forget to complete all daily tasks. A task-tracking system can be used as a tool for staff to ensure that all tasks are completed daily, and it will help hold individuals accountable for their work.
Once you have looked at your processes and identified changes for improvement, include your staff in the change process. Implement these changes as soon as possible and communicate them to everyone. Monitor the new processes and determine if they are making a difference.
Christine Ingram holds a Masters of Science in Healthcare Management from Troy State University, and has amassed over 10 years of expertise and experience in all areas of managing medical practices. As a Senior Consultant with The Coker Group’s Practice Management division, she assists medical practices across the country with solving operational and financial issues. You can email Christine at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on The Coker Group call 678.832.2000 or visit www.cokergroup.com.