4 Ways to Ease the Burden on Front-Office Staff

4 Ways to Ease the Burden on Front-Office Staff

By Kate Kawalek, VP of Customer Experience at Luma Health

Today, April 22, is Administrative Professionals’ Day, and we’re thrilled to acknowledge these professionals and their indispensable work. Here at Luma Health, my Customer Success team is in constant contact with amazing front-office professionals who are vital to any thriving healthcare practice.

We’re so grateful for the work they have done and that they continue to do during this unprecedented pandemic — managing cancellations, obtaining PPE, rescheduling appointments, facilitating virtual televisits, screening patients, and working to keep clinics financially afloat.

For example, one healthcare administrator reported that their medical center has gone from needing 200 masks per day to needing 2,000 masks, creating a tremendous amount of work for the administrators trying to keep both patients and staff safe in this chaotic environment.

The administrative professionals we work with are facing a barrage of demands and have been working 24/7 to keep patients healthy and practices stable. We applaud and salute them for their hard work around the clock.

This pandemic is changing the way healthcare is delivered.  Clinics can and should adopt new technologies and workflows that free up staff time spent on tedious manual tasks, enabling them to focus on what matters most — delivering next-level patient care. Here are some ways that you can make a difference for these professionals and make their lives easier.

1. Proactively address patient questions through SMS messaging.

Our Customer Success team has frequently heard staff members tell us that COVID-19, and the uncertainty that surrounds it, is causing heightened levels of patient anxiety and worry. Patients are unsure about the types of preventive measures they can take to reduce their risk of contracting COVID-19, and information from their trusted healthcare provider is essential.

To keep administrators from being tied up all day fielding calls and questions, disseminating answers to frequently asked questions with a text-first approach can work wonders. Our data scientists at Luma Health have been working around the clock to track the types of messages patients are sending their providers during this crisis, and the results paint a clear picture: people are worried about the impact COVID-19 can have on them and their families. Some of the words in the below word cloud include “scared,” “problem,” and “canceling.” Take a look to see the types of issues that patients are most concerned about:

Broadcast messaging allows for staff to send out important messages to entire patient populations (which can be filtered based on their location, preferred language, pre-existing conditions, and more) that give them crucial information about their own health. We think this is a key tool to allay patients’ concerns while reducing the burden placed on administrative professionals, and we’re offering 90 complimentary days of our broadcast messaging services to help all health systems meet those goals (sign up by April 30). This messaging can be leveraged to promote social distancing, clear up misconceptions, screen patients for COVID-19, and more: get all of the details and use cases in our recent blog.

2. Implement a seamless telehealth solution.

Healthcare providers are racing to adopt telehealth solutions — and for good reason. At a time when in-person medical appointments aren’t advisable and are prohibited in many states, virtual televisits are key to keeping providers connected with their patients. They can also help clinics maintain revenue flow at a time when many small clinics and rural hospitals are struggling, enable providers to monitor quarantined, COVID-positive patients, and so much more. It’s no wonder that the number of providers adopting telehealth is skyrocketing.

But not every telehealth solution is a cure-all. Many are clunky, unreliable, and convoluted, and the onus usually falls on administrative staff to set up the platform — so clinics may be unwittingly creating more work for their front-office staff. But by adopting a telehealth solution that seamlessly integrates with your EHR and automates processes on both the front and back end, you’ll be doing your staff a huge service.

Watch this video to hear one of our customers Chuck Leider, CIO for Houston ENT and Allergy, share his successes with Luma Health Telehealth along with his key learnings for implementing a telehealth solution: 

At Luma Health, we believe that telehealth has the potential to make healthcare far more convenient and accessible for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic — that’s why we’re offering 90 free days of our solution to any healthcare practice that signs up by April 30. We’re proud to offer televisits that are fully HIPAA-compliant and can be accessed by patients in just one click (no apps, no logins, and no downloads required). Patients receive text message reminders in a customizable cadence, and the reminders contain the link to the session, making it seamless for patients to enter virtual visit rooms and see their providers. Learn more about our solution here and sign up for our Telehealth Webinar to get a glimpse into the way it works.

3. Cut down on incoming phone calls by leveraging online scheduling.

When staff members are dealing with a barrage of phone calls, backlogs make it harder for both patients and staff members: patients can’t schedule appointments in a timely, convenient manner, and staff members are too busy triaging phone calls to focus on other important tasks. 

A smart online scheduling wizard, like the one our team has developed, can resolve these issues by allowing patients to make an appointment whenever they have free time, on their device of choice. This flexibility is vital to driving patient access and cutting down the staff time spent answering calls and manually entering scheduled appointments into your EHR. Patients love it, too: they have 24/7, real-time visibility into their providers’ availability windows, allowing them to pick any time that works for them.

This may not seem like a top priority given the current pandemic, but we think scheduling is always a crucial part of any healthcare clinic. Appointments can be scheduled as far in advance as you’d like, allowing patients to schedule in-person consultations with their providers to occur once stay-at-home orders are lifted. And, in the meantime, our online scheduling platform works with scheduling televisits as well, making it easier than ever for patients to see their providers despite being quarantined. Interested in seeing how it works? Get all of the information here to see how online scheduling saves staff time while getting patients to care as quickly as possible.  At the end of the day, everybody wins with a smart online scheduler.

4. Streamline processes for cancellations, rescheduling, and intake.

Automatically processing cancellations and reschedulings is key for keeping practices organized and working efficiently. Many patients — as you can see in our above word cloud — are requesting to cancel their non-essential appointments or move them to another time. This is where another element of broadcast messaging comes in to help lessen the burden placed on staff: they can send a message to a specific patient population (e.g., all patients with an appointment scheduled for the month of April) that informs them of the appointments’ cancellation and contains a link to reschedule for a later date.

Plus, once the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided and patients are able to visit clinics for appointments again, there’s going to be a huge number of patients coming in for care. To reduce the time that they spend in the waiting room, clinics should be processing intake forms well before the patient enters your clinic. This also allows providers to be more cognizant of patients’ unique conditions and health histories, empowering them to continue delivering top-level care. Meanwhile, the patients doing televisits also need to be filling out intake forms ahead of time to maximize efficiency. Learn more about our Mobile Patient Intake solution to see how it helps create a smoother appointment experience for patients and staff alike.

We’re glad to be honoring Administrative Professionals Day in recognition of the sometimes-overlooked staff members who are truly invaluable to clinics. While we are as eternally grateful as ever to doctors and nurses on the frontlines of the war against COVID, we want to recognize the other professionals who are standing right along with them. From the entire Luma Health team: thank you, administrative professionals!

Kate Kawalek is the VP of Customer Experience at Luma Health.