Front Desk Benchmarks: Are You Measuring These 6 Things?

With a position like the front desk or receptionist, it can be tough for that person to visualize how they fit into your practice’s overall goals. This is especially true when you’re talking about broad things like capture rate or total revenue. But that perception couldn’t be further from the truth. By setting specific benchmarks for the position, it can help show the staff member their true effect on the practice’s numbers, and helps re-engage them with the team.

“It keeps the team connected and accountable,” says Ann Hulett, CEO, CMPE, who talked about benchmarking for a variety of positions during her presentation at AAO 2016. “Benchmarking helps us to educate ourselves, but also provides context, helps fight isolation, and helps us communicate and motivate,” she says.

Your front desk is responsible for things like:

  • communication with new and established patients
  • patient registration
  • benefits verification and preauthorization
  • appointment check in, and appointment check out.

Identify 3-5 measures to get started, say Andrew Maller and Elizabeth Holloway of BSM Consulting. Whatever you choose should be easy to measure, and tie into department and practice goals. Plus, you need to be clear on how staff can impact the results. For the first six months, track the benchmarks without specific goals in mind, Maller and Holloway say. After that, use those results to establish baselines and set goals for improvement. Below, experts recommend a few metrics to get you started:

Appointment Volume

At the front desk, “the number one thing you’re doing is making appointments,” consultant Sharon Carter told a group of physicians at last year’s SECO conference in Atlanta. You don’t want to spend 30 minutes on the phone with someone answering all their questions about LASIK until they say ‘thanks’ and hang up, she elaborates. You want to get them into your office for a consultation, where you’ll ultimately sell the procedure. The ability to convert inquiries into appointments is invaluable.

No Show Rate

“Cancellations and no-shows are a fact of life, and it’s a constant challenge to keep the schedule full and avoid overbooking. But cancellations and no-shows that aren’t filled are lost income,” says Carter. A low no-show rate ensures that you have proper protocols in place and that your staff is following them. To calculate, divide the number of no-shows by the number of patients scheduled for a particular time period.

Average Time to Answer/Average Call Time

The person that answers your phone is selling your practice. “If they do a bad job, your doctor may be really great but [the patient will] never know,” Carter says.

Percentage of Benefits Verified in Advance

According to the 2013 American Medical Association National Health Insurer Report Card, demographic errors account for 61 percent of initial medical billing denials and 42 percent of denial write-offs. And according to MGMA, the average cost in billing and staff time to rework a claim is $25. If your front desk isn’t on the ball with verifying patient information at every visit, resulting denials can add up.

Verifying benefits at least 48 hours in advance of every appointment saves time when the patient checks in. It allows time to resolve any issues, and allows timely completion of the forms that ultimately allow your billing staff to file clean claims. To further track your patient registration effectiveness, try tracking the volume of denials for incorrect or incomplete information.

Percentage of Co-Pays, Refractions, and Outstanding Balances Collected at POS

Make every effort to collect co-pays, deductibles, co-insurance, and any out-of pocket monies due at the time that services are rendered, urges Carter. “When not handled properly, this is a place a lot of money piles up and will never be collected,” she says. It’s easier to get the money when the patient is at the practice than after they are gone. If you don’t learn to ask for the money in full, you won’t get it, she continues.

Patients Checked in Per Hour

This metric can indicate training opportunities for staff and alert you to inefficient patient registration procedures, say Maller and Holloway. Calculate it by dividing the number of patients seen divided by total department hours worked during the same period.


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