During our Medical Practice Profit Drivers class we ask participants what area of the practice they think is the most critical to driving profits: clinical, front desk or billing? The question always generates lively debate with an almost equal split among people forcefully arguing for one of the three departments.
When the front desk faction makes its pitch, the discussion always brings up an interesting dilemma that we find in every practice we visit. The front-desk folks argue they are the most important part of a practice because:
- The practice will likely not be paid for treating uninsured (non-verified) patients
- High-deductible health plan patients require greater scrutiny to make sure the practice is paid what it is owed
- Collecting co-pays is critical to cash-flow
- The front desk person is the first and last person a patient sees when visiting a practice
We concur with the above points (but we are not necessarily agreeing that the front desk is the most critical profit-driver – you will have to take our class to find out what we think… CLICK HERE for course information and offerings).
After the front-desk promoters have their say, we ask them a follow-up question: “Who is the lowest paid employee in your practice?” After a pregnant pause, someone sheepishly admits that their front desk person is the lowest paid employee.
So we ask: “But you just told us that person is the most important driver of your practice’s profits. If so, why is he or she the lowest paid staffer?”
The answer: “Because it’s always been that way.”
Therein lies the problem. The tasks and responsibilities of the front desk have evolved to a more complex level over the years due to changes in the healthcare market. Yet practices still treat it as a low-level, high-turnover position. Of course, low pay triggers the high-turnover.
When a medical practices recognize the significance of the front desk position, it can justify paying more to attract and keep people with the right skills who can help the practice generate greater profits.
The University of Georgia Small Business Development Center Medical Practice Management Program (MP2) offers no-cost consulting and continuing education programs for medical practices in Georgia. For more information contact Matt Lastinger at 706 542-8322 or [email protected].
(Source: Matt Lasting, Consultant, UGA SBDC MP2)