When measuring the patient experience, it’s important not only to examine the doctor-patient relationship and interactions with clinical staff, but also where it all begins: at reception.
Although front desk staff aren’t treating patients, their role in the patient experience is critical. It’s so important, in fact, that a patient may switch doctors simply because of a negative interaction during check-in. Concerns with reception may also lead to negative online reviews and may even increase the risk of malpractice suits
Reception and the patient experience
There are four ways in which reception at your practice has a significant impact on the patient experience.
Reception is the patient’s first impression of your practice
Check-in sets the tone for the patient’s entire visit. The prompt greeting and nonverbal communication of the front desk staff are vital to conveying value to the patient. This is the first opportunity to make the patient feel like their needs come first.
During check-in, the patient may also form opinions about the efficiency and professionalism of your practice. This first impression is difficult to negate, even if the patient is extremely satisfied with their provider.
Reception is a hotspot for privacy concerns
Discussing patient information too loudly or in too public of an area may cause privacy concerns. If a patient feels like their privacy is violated during check-in, they may continue to worry about privacy throughout their visit and during their time with the provider. Respecting privacy at the front desk demonstrates the level of commitment your practice as a whole has toward privacy and security.
Reception impacts patient perceptions of wait times
Though a long wait time may not be the fault of the front desk staff, patients often perceive excessive wait times to be related to reception. Front desk staff can help to ease wait time frustrations by greeting patients promptly at check-in and providing regular updates when wait times are high.
Reception affects perceived access to care
When a patient can’t reach someone by phone to schedule an appointment or is given incorrect information about an appointment, they consider these concerns when rating their overall experience. If another practice is more accessible, they may choose to leave.
What can you do?
These five simple best practices can go a long way in improving the patient’s experience during check-in.
- Greet the patient promptly with a smile when they approach the check-in area; if all staff are with other patients, acknowledge each patient who enters and explain they will be helped as soon as possible
- Speak softly when discussing the patient’s personal information
- Use warm nonverbal communication: smile, maintain eye contact, and speak with a gentle tone of voice
- Display empathy toward the patient; remember they are in a vulnerable position
- Check in with the patient and provide updates when wait times are longer than expected
The Reception question group on the Standard Patient Satisfaction Questionnaire (SPSQ) gives you insights into your patients’ attitudes toward your front desk staff. Dive even deeper with comment sentiment analysis to learn about specific pain points for your patients.
The Improvement Center also contains a variety of resources targeted toward Reception best practices.
Hope McCain February 12th, 2021 Categories: Best Practices, Outpatient Practice, Patient Experience
Tags: best practices
, patient experience
, quality improvement
, wait times