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The Front Desk Revisited
Jun 23, 2004

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The Front Desk Revisited

It is a curious thing, the front desk.

Is it a receptionist job?  Is it an insurance job? Is it a “do-everything-all-the-time-now” job? In most offices, it is one of these.
But what is it really? What should it be?

Ultimately, the answer is: what is going to produce the greatest ROI (return on investment)?

Over the last 15 years, in office after office, we have found that the front desk position can be a tremendous source of income that is overlooked. “How’s that?”, you say.  Should they be selling more vitamins and pillows? Collecting more deductibles and co-pays? Of course they should, but that is not the point.

Think about if for a minute. What is the real function of the front desk?

There you are, the doctor. You are all ready to get to work. You go into your adjusting room and there is a patient waiting for you. Or, there isn’t a patient waiting for you and there hasn’t been for the last 45 minutes.  That is the job of the front desk. Put simply, the front desk’s job is:

To keep the treatment/adjusting rooms always full, moving patients in and out according to their schedule.

Now, you can add on other tasks to the position, but very carefully so as not to distract from the primary purpose. If what you really want is a secretary or an insurance clerk, then get one.

Your ideal is someone who energetically AND cheerfully interacts with all your patients in such a way as to keep them all coming in as needed.

Your front desk assistant should be someone who is friendly. She should really like people. She should want to get your patients in to see you on a regular basis. She should be controlling too. Not mean, just not shy about insisting that Betty come in at 2:33, three times next week, and also bring her husband Fred in on Wednesday for a complimentary screening.

Give your front desk a grade and work to improve on it each month. A 1-10 scale can be used. “One” would be staff that are apathetic, who have tired forced smiles and  a “whatever” attitude. “Ten” would be an energetic, friendly, and aggressive staff, like an Olympic volleyball team during a game.  

Warning: even if you have the right staff, you and the systems in your office may hobble them and keep them from performing to their highest capability. Eventually, conflict will occur and they will leave. So having the right systems in place is as important as hiring the right people.

OK, let’s approach this from another angle.  What is the MOST expensive bill you have to pay each month? Rent? Nope. Staff payroll? Uh-uh. Consultants fees? Hardly! The most expensive bill you pay every month is the lost revenue of uncompleted treatment plans.  You can do the math, but let’s face it: most of your patients do not complete their treatment plans (assuming you gave them one!), let alone adhere to any kind of a maintenance program.

Let’s be honest. How many times have YOU started an exercise program and sort of had it drift away from you?  Why are people hiring personal coaches or personalized diet programs? THEY WANT REGULAR COACHING AND SUPPORT because it WORKS.  We  ALL need some cheerleading and friendly nudging in this world of disappointments and inertia.  People drop out from your program because the pain went away, because the pain did not go away,  because of money reasons, or logistical reasons such as time and travel.  We have all heard these analysis’s before. But, the reasons also include the fact that they just drifted away. All of these barriers, with the right amount of support from you, can be overcome. The front desk’s job is to get the patient in so that the clinical and financial aspects of the patient’s care can be tended to correctly.
Think about what kind of front desk YOU might need to keep YOU on your health program or New Year’s type resolutions? 

With this in mind, look at the volume in your office and if it is not where it should be, review all the systems of the front desk first, including your personal influence. Then, review the personnel. Make the changes as needed.  With the best systems and the right people, your front desk can ensure you are seeing as many patients as possible.


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