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READER TIPS

Front desk moves its phones into a communications center

A Colorado manager has taken the telephones off the front desk and set up a communications center.

The noise, other commotion, and staff burnout at the front desk have ended. As a result, the four-doctor, 16-staff office is able to see more patients in a day.

Before the change, the front desk was nothing short of frustrating. It was noisy with phones ringing. Worse, staff had to deal with never-ending interruptions. As they checked patients in and out, they had to answer calls. And then they had to put callers on hold to help patients at the desk.

So the manager of this practice cleared out a small room at the back of the office that’s nowhere close to the reception area and put in three phones, three computer terminals, and manned the station with three staffers. One staffer answers the incoming calls and routes them. The other two are nurses. They triage calls, schedule appointments, and handle prescription refills.

Setting up the center created staffing changes all down the line, but it also created efficiencies.

For example, the number of front desk staff was reduced from three to two. But because those staffers no longer answer any phones, they took on the job of posting daily charges and payments. The billing staffer who originally did the posting now has time to follow up on billing problems.

The manager also moved one nurse from lab and X-ray to the communications center. The office found that lab and X-ray could be managed by only one person with the other nurse acting as backup.

Still another change was a new hire – the second nurse in the center. That means the nurses who work directly with the physicians don’t have side work that keeps them from patient care. It also means the doctors can see more patients.

The patients benefit from the new communications center, too.

They say the waiting area is calmer and that they get more personal attention from the desk staff. When they call, there is no waiting for callback from a nurse.


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Model Policy: Patient scheduling and appointments


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