The implementation of ICD-10 will affect the entire practice, from clinicians and billers to the front desk. With all the emphasis placed on coding changes, it’s easy to forget that anyone who deals with patient information will need some form of training and that includes the front desk staff. They will be responsible for much more than checking IDs and collecting co-pays.
Not everyone in the practice will need the same level of training. Front desk staff will need increased communication skills when dealing with clients. Many patients have heard about changes, but have no idea how it will affect them. Front desk personnel will be responsible for answering basic questions for patients and billing matters.
Front desk staff will also responsible for verification of patient insurance information and creating the rudiments of the client’s file. There are HIPAA compliance and patient privacy issues to consider and digital considerations concerning patient requests for their personal information. There will be new forms to be explained and signed.
The front desk will need to explain to patients how any changes in their insurance plan will affect them at the office. There may be changes in technology used during the pre-registration phase. Many offices will be using tablet technology that enables patents to submit their own identification photos and insurance information. Assistance and instruction in using the technology will be required.
Education and training is never wasted. Many clinicians may want to provide the basics of ICD-10 to staff that will primarily be involved in patient access, compliance and financial services. If the front desk is involved in any coding activities, they’ll require more inclusive information, understanding, and the application of ICD-10.
One aspect of the change for front desk staff that clinicians typically don’t consider is interacting with the irate patient. The Affordable Health Care act has wrought changes in coverage for patients. Others will be using insurance coverage for the first time.
Some of the changes will be reflected in patient co-pays and the ability to see the practitioners with which they’re familiar. In the first months of ICD-10 implementation, patients may be billed in error to due to unjust claim denials and front office personnel must be able to explain what’s happened and why.
Clinicians need to prepare the front desk staff for these potential problems and arm them with the information needed to remain calm, friendly and provide explanations to frustrated and angry clients. Front desk staff must be able to address issues and communicate changes in terms the patient can understand.
The previous role of front desk personnel becomes more difficult with the changes that will come with implementation of ICD-10. The role of front desk staff as liaisons to field patient questions and complaints will take on new importance in regard to patient satisfaction, retention of established clients and attracting new patients.
Front desk staff will require less education about ICD-10 than nurses, clinicians and billers, but that doesn’t make the training any less important. Practice owners will need to assess the level of involvement the front desk will have in any coding activities and provide commensurate training. Just as important will be education in the impact of HIPAA compliance and patient privacy issues.
Some individuals may have taken the initiative and increased their knowledge and understanding on their own. Others may not be suited for their current positions in the new ICD-10 order. It’s essential that clinicians provide the appropriate training, have an effective means of testing their knowledge, and create a plan for staff members that are unable to make the transition.
Never assume that any practice member is fluent after training. It’s an ongoing-learning process and some instructors are better than others, no matter what medium they’re using to educate. The learning style of the individual must be considered to obtain the training that best suits them, will obtain the maximum results and address information retention.
Without the level of training appropriate to their role within the practice, front desk staff will experience significant stress and loss of productivity that will be felt throughout the office. Clinicians really don’t want clients filling out new forms and patient information in the examination room when they should be focused on the reason for their visit.