For many patients, there is a sense of dread in visiting their healthcare provider. Certainly, worries about their health may be part of these concerns. But even for those seeing their provider for a wellness check tend to loathe the experience. Why? It’s not because they dislike their provider or even the staff. It’s actually because they don’t want to have to sit in a waiting room idle for an excessive length of time. If time is money, this costs patients dearly. And this is just one of many medical front office issues that deserve attention. In an industry known to lag behind others, many healthcare offices have neglected this very important aspect of care.
Of course, front office solutions for healthcare providers can also improve office management for providers as well. Poor scheduling procedures, failure to receive medical authorizations, and other front-end processes undermine practice efficiency and productivity. Medical front office issues also affect staff and lead to poor retention rates and employee burnout. These same issues can even lead to privacy and confidentiality violations that result in fines and reprimands. And most importantly, poor practices negatively affect patient outcomes. This is especially true today where there is a need for closer patient monitoring and preventative care. Understanding this, the following describes precisely why better front-end process solutions for healthcare providers are a must.
What Are Medical Front Office Processes?
According to the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA), front end processes are a major component of providers’ revenue cycle management. These include all administrative and clinical front office activities that contribute to the capture, management, and collection of revenues. Such activities involve appointment scheduling, patient registration, and insurance coverage verifications. They also involve patient intake and interactions with front office staff. And they involve staffing as well as the tasks they are trained to perform. Given this array of activities, it’s evident that medical front office issues can arise in many areas.
When it comes to these medical front office issues, some are more common than others. One of the most common problems relates to data entry. According to some surveys, over 92% of all data entry errors take place in medical front offices. When data inputs are wrong, delays and even rejections related to insurance coverage and authorizations can occur. In best case scenarios, this demands more staff time to correct errors. And in worst case scenarios, reimbursements are never received. Scheduling issues are also common for medical offices. Poor no-show policy management robs practices of productivity and effective patient care. Likewise, too few or too many patients in a schedule effectively achieves the same thing. All of these examples are why solutions for healthcare providers are needed for front end processing.
Top Medical Front Office Issues Today
As noted, medical front office issues are common and involve a variety of missteps. In order to define effective solutions for healthcare providers in this area, specific problems should be noted. The following therefore outlines some of the most common front-end processes that could be improved in many medical offices. And in most instances, more than one typically exists that undermine effective medical office management.
- Ineffective Patient Scheduling – When medical front office issues involve patient scheduling, both productivity and efficiency suffer. If gaps exist in provider schedules, optimal use of resources undermines revenue generation. At the same time, excess numbers of patients on a schedule lead to poor quality of care and stress. it also creates excess wait times for patients, which decreases patient satisfaction. Many medical offices thus need solutions for healthcare providers in scheduling processes.
- Inefficient Patient Registration – Some provider offices continue to administer registration forms in the office. Some rely on front office staff to collect such information in EHR and billing systems. Not only is this inefficient, but it also poorly utilizes front office staff. Instead, solutions for healthcare providers should transfer registration tasks onto patients. They should also do this far in advance through automated technologies. Such practices would enhance revenue generation while also reducing data entry errors.
- Failure to Verify Coverages – Insurance denials, rejected medical authorizations, and failure to collect patient copays often result from a failure to verify insurance coverage. Even if done well on initial visits, many front offices fail to do it effectively on follow-up visits. Some surveys suggest this figure may be as low as 25%. This too leads to poor revenue management and demands better solutions for healthcare providers.
- Poor Referral Management – Coordination in healthcare among providers is essential for quality patient care and outcomes. When a referral is made, it is therefore essential that information sharing is done well while respecting HIPPA compliance. Unfortunately, medical front office issues undermine these tasks. This then results in duplication of effort among staff and sometimes patient frustrations. Developing solutions for healthcare providers that improve these situations is critical to good outcomes.
- Front Office Staffing Problems – Surveys suggest that half of all front office medical staff are burned out. Excessive tasks related to front end processes result in stress, which in turn increases mistakes and staff turnover. At the same time, having too many staff members can lead to idleness that affects profitability. These types of medical front office issues are among the most challenging but not insolvable. A variety of business process solutions for healthcare providers exist that can help these situations.
- Poor Patient Communications – Naturally, a burned-out front office staff isn’t likely to engage patients in the best way. But at the same time, medical front office issues can negatively affect patient interactions in other ways. Failure to communicate what patients should expect, their responsibilities, financial policies and more can lead to bad experiences. In turn, patient satisfaction levels decline, which can affect reimbursements over time as well. Better solutions for healthcare providers in communications can alleviate these problems greatly.
- Lack of Process Analytics – While the other medical front office issues involved specific processes, analytics reflects another area of concern. Being able to collect and utilize data to improve revenue cycle management is important in healthcare today. In this regard, solutions for healthcare providers are also important. Being able to make decisions based on predictive analytics and hard data enhances productivity and quality. This too should be an area for front end process improvement in healthcare as well.