Optometric Management Tip # 569   -   Wednesday, February 06, 2013
Improve Productivity and Customer Service
by Speeding Up Your Check-in Process

I've reviewed the front desk procedures in many optometric practices and I want to share a very common shortfall: taking much too long with the check-in process. There are many factors in play as we analyze why this process can take too long, but I urge you to examine your check-in procedure. This includes every step from the time the patient says hello to the time a technician brings him into the clinical area.

Read on to consider the reasons why check-in can take too long and what you can do about it.

Far reaching problems
A long check-in process causes a series of negatives for your practice from both a customer service and a sales standpoint. Long history forms
This is the big offender in the process for most doctors. It starts with an approach that looks first at the doctor's wants and needs and does not consider the patient's. Many doctors don't even realize that is what they are doing, but highly successful practices look at everything they do from the patient's point of view first. If you have a long detailed history form for patients to complete, consider a new approach. Insurance verification
Verifying the patient's insurance benefits, whether they are vision or medical, can slow down the process a great deal. Some companies still rely on telephone representatives for this information and the hold times are terrible. But even online verification and printing the benefits page wastes valuable time. I truly do not understand any practice that does not obtain this information over the phone and verify the benefits well in advance of the visit. If the patient does not know or does not want to look up the information, we politely tell them that if we can't verify the coverage in advance, we will have to charge them for the services. We get the information.

Entering demographic data
Review your front desk procedures so the patient is not made to wait. It could be that the staff is stuck in some bad habits, like completing a long demographic page before calling the technician. Why not input just the name and address to open the record and then complete the rest of the data while the patient is being examined. If there are obstacles, resolve them. Perhaps the history form should be two part NCR paper.

No technician available
Of course, problems happen occasionally in every office, but if you find that you are usually not able to start a visit because there is no technician available; I think you may be understaffed. In that case, hiring another tech could make you more profitable. A slightly different problem is when the technician is available but she feels she must read every word and review every test in the entire multi-year patient record. I train my staff to get the basics and call the patient. You can review it while you talk and test.

No room available
Is there a bottle neck because you have only one pretest room with many instruments and it is busy for a long time? If so, consider breaking up the instruments into multiple smaller rooms. Or equip a second pretest room with duplicate instruments (assuming you have a lot of patient volume). Solve the patient flow problems.

If you can overcome your check-in delay, you'll see an increase in patient satisfaction and loyalty and an increase in revenue.
Best wishes for continued success,

Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management