Imagine this scenario. A potential new patient receives a referral to your practice, but they’ve never had physical therapy before. They want to know what to expect on their first visit, so they ask, “What does a physical therapist do?” Imagine there is awkward silence on the other end of the call, or a flurry of guesses. Words like “personal trainer” or “massage” get tossed around. Hopefully that new patient will still come to your practice! If your front desk doesn’t know what you offer, why would a patient show up?
Avoid Bad First Impressions
Your front desk staff are the gatekeepers to your practice. They talk each day to patients, insurance companies, doctor’s offices, and family members taking loved ones to appointments. If they don’t know what your therapists do, they won’t be able to answer any questions. Further, the front desk is your best advocate for your therapists. If they understand what specialties each therapist offers, they can schedule the right patient with the right therapist.
Educate Your Front Desk
Terms like “therapeutic exercise,” “neuromuscular re-education,” and “therapeutic activities” mean very little to most patients. Likewise, these aren’t terms your front desk can distinguish for patients without you teaching them. If your neurological therapists can help patients with stroke, dizziness, or neuropathy, that can streamline how to schedule. Likewise, if you have an orthopedic specialist who works with the temporomandibular joint, you wouldn’t schedule those patients with your neuro specialist. And the person who needs to know these things? Your front desk.
Preventing Cancellations and No-Shows
When a patient calls to schedule an appointment, you want them to speak with someone who is kind, patient, and can thoroughly answer questions. This is the first step to building rapport with patients. When your front desk recognizes patients as they come in the door, patients feel more welcome.
Therapists do, of course, continue to build that relationship, but a physical therapy practice is a team effort! The happier your patients are with the administrative side of things, and they are paired with the right therapist, they are far more likely to attend regular appointments. Conversely, if patients are scheduled with multiple clinicians who all treat differently, that patient is far less likely to stick around.
Your front desk is a critical part of your team and it’s important they’re equipped with the knowledge to be successful and drive value for your patients. Teach them what you do for patients; offer to let them shadow your therapists so they can understand what patients experience during their physical therapy visits. Thorough front desk knowledge keeps patients from canceling and can keep them coming back — so you can help improve their health and achieve the results they’re looking for.
About the author:
Laura Vroman is a physical therapist, health content writer, and creator of The Humanist PT, a new continuing education source for therapists. Follow her on LinkedIn (Laura M. Vroman PT DPT) and visit www.humanistpt.com.