Plus: Should You Ever Hire a Part-Timer?
It’s a bit counter-intuitive. Your non medical trained front desk staff – play a greater role in winning new business than the physiotherapists, chiropractors, and dentists who work with the actual patients and went to school for years of medical training.
Why is this true?
It’s not really that hard to figure out. Your front desk staff are the first people new patients generally come in contact with, both in person and on the phone. Unless a patient gets referred, or meets the therapist at an event of some kind, the first person they will speak to will be someone on your front desk staff.
That means the training you provide, and the quality of the people you hire for those positions, play an outsize role in the overall success and growth of your clinic. Superb medical care isn’t enough.
Hire badly for your front desk, and your clinic suffers. Train your front desk team poorly, and your clinic suffers. This can happen even if the therapist is the most skilled, friendliest, and most effective expert on the planet. The patients have to make it to them before they experience that service.
So that’s why this is such an important question:
How many front desk staff should your clinic hire?
According to an expert in training front desk teams who we’ll introduce in a moment, you should hire one front desk person for every 100 patients you see each week.
So if you see 200 patients per week, you should have two front office employees, better referred to as patient care coordinators. They should be dedicated to patient management, not also tasked with cleaning the office. What if you have 250 patients? We’ll talk about that in a moment.
Not surprisingly, most clinics are understaffed on their front desks.
The good news is, Front Office Guru Dee Bills discussed this very question with Rick Lau in a recent episode of New Patient Secrets. You can view the entire webinar for free right here. Dee Bills is a physical therapist who shifted her attention to her front desk when her clinic’s survival was threatened. She and her husband were both serving patients, but not enough of them were coming through the doors. When she first began working on this, her clinic was seeing about 96 patients per week. Now, they’re seeing nearly 500 per week.
A key factor in that growth was directly attributable to the number of front desk specialists who she hired to manage patients and bookings at her clinic. See strategies for selling a plan of care without feeling salesy.
Watch this video on How many front desk should I hire for my clinic and why you should stop hiring part-timers, or keep reading this article below...
What Does a Patient Care Coordinator Do?
Just as important as what a front desk specialist does is what they do NOT do.
The people you hire for the specific task of managing your patients should not also be tasked with cleaning the office or doing the laundry. That kind of work distracts them from their primary role of patient management, a skillset they use to:
A patient care coordinator answers the phone, prioritizes first-time callers, converts callers into booked appointments, prevents cancellations, and ensures all your calls get answered by someone who isn’t distracted by tons of other tasks.
With this kind of undistracted specialist working on your clinic’s behalf, your answer rates will go up, as will all your other key metrics. You may choose to have your patient care coordinator do insurance verifications and authorizations as well.
This person must be trained using phone scripts for different scenarios, and you can measure their performance based on targeted metrics such as booking rates and winbacks.
In the webinar, Dee recommends making sure you have a patient care coordinator working all the hours your clinic is open. Some clinics open earlier than their office staff comes in, and doctors are there after the staff leaves as well.
For example, suppose your front office specialists are there from 9 to 5, but your clinic is open to see patients from 7 to 7. That means there are four hours every day that calls coming in will go unanswered, and patients will go unserved.
How much business from first-time patients will you lose in those four hours?
That’s why you need to give some thought not just to how many patient care coordinators to hire, but what hours they will work. With two such specialists in the example above, you could have one working from 7 to 3, and another working from 11 to 7.
With a larger clinic that hires more than two, you can work out a schedule that best serves your patients – meaning you have more people working during the hours when you get the most calls.
What if We Have 250 Patients Per Week? Should We Hire a Part-Timer?
If you follow the standard of hiring one front desk person per 100 patients seen each week, what happens if your numbers fall somewhere in the middle, like 150, 250, or 350?
You have two choices:
Option 2 is obviously the bolder choice, and Dee herself made this choice when she was implementing her approach in her own clinic. It paid off beautifully. Why? Because a well-trained front desk specialist will bring in more patients. More patients equals more revenue. Handled well, the new position will pay for itself.
But, sometimes you just don’t have the margins to make that choice.
In that case, Dee recommends a hybrid strategy. Find a qualified front desk staffer who is willing to start out part time, but hopes to eventually become a full-time employee. This way, their role will grow as the clinic grows.
This is a good approach because hiring part-time front desk workers usually doesn’t end well. Why? Most part-timers are also working part-time somewhere else. And the first chance they get to increase their hours, they’re going to leave you in the dust, and now you have to start over.
Part-time workers are less reliable on a long-term basis.
And if you’re going to be investing phone training with scripts and other patient communication procedures and principles, as you should be if you want this to work, you don’t want that person leaving a few months later.
Check out this quick video where Dee Bills tells us the #1 Front Desk Interview question she uses to retain talented employees:
So bite the bullet and hire a full-timer, even if it stretches you. Or, if you can’t quite do that, look for a person who is willing to start out part-time, but expects to expand to full-time down the road. Hiring Guide: How to hire the perfect front desk staff.
Watch the Entire Webinar Featuring Dee Bills and Rick Lau
Dee’s conversation with Rick Lau touches on much more than how many front desk staff your health clinic should hire. In the same webinar, you’ll learn her top sales tactics to easily double your caseload without spending more on marketing. You’ll get the do’s and don’ts of talking to patients, and why most clinics get this wrong. She also shows you how to lower same day cancellations and no-shows.
And, you’ll get phone secrets that are guaranteed to increase your conversions, the biggest mistakes clinics make with their front desk phone training, and how to get team buy-in without overwhelming them.
Watch the full webinar here
Rick has built three 10 million dollar healthcare businesses over the past 15 years including a network of 127 clinics with over 1400 employees. He is one of the most sought-after mentors for clinic owners in Canada and USA where he helps owners double, triple, and even quadruple their profits by optimizing their clinic operations using his proven systems and leadership strategies. Plus, he has spent over millions in google and facebook ads during his career.
You can follow him on Instagram