Smoothing & speeding the check-in process.
By Laurie Sorrenson, OD, FAAO
Dec. 20, 2023
I believe that efficiency in patient check-in processes (and all the other processes too!) is paramount for any optometric practice aiming to enhance patient experience, boost optical capture rates and take their practice to the next level.
We have streamlined our check-in process to less than one minute!! Let me tell you what we did, it revolves around assessing your current system and enhancing preparation by your staff beforehand.
Track Check-In Times
The first step in optimizing patient check-in is to understand the current workflow. You could hire a high school student or designate a staff member to track check-in times. I would recommend hiring the student though. Do this for a day or two. You can also have this person track how long the diagnostic preliminary process (The “prelim”) takes and the wait times for doctors.
We hired a student for a week before who tracked the front desk for 1-2 days, one day for how long patients waited for the technician, one day for how long prelims were taking and one day for how long patients waited for the doctor. We already use a system called CQueue to monitor optician wait times, which I will discuss in a later column.
Analyze Check-In Data
Once the check-in data is collected, analyze it to determine the range, average, mode and median times. I think the mode and median are most important and should be close to each other. That is the number I would be trying to improve.
Preparation Before Arrival
We make sure that we get all the demographic and insurance information through the practice’s website or by phone before their appointment. Over 80 percent of the time the patient has already filled out their history forms too.
We have a designated staff member to pull insurance, compile insurance details and fill out a quote sheet outlining coverage and deductibles. This quote sheet is a tab we created in our Crystal Practice Management EHR, so once the information is put into this tab, he just prints the page. He also prints the demographic page from the EHR. He combines these two things (demographic page and quote sheet) with any vision insurance papers needed that outline all of the patient’s coverage.
This pre-arrival preparation significantly reduces the time the front desk spends checking in a patient. He staples the documents together and places them in a daily notebook sorted by appointment time (see photo above). The front desk staff can then very quickly and efficiently retrieve all the patient information upon arrival of the patient for their appointment.
The quote sheet goes on the top of the stapled papers so that the front desk team just tears off this sheet, reviews it with the patient and then hands that quote sheet to the patient. Having a tab in CrystalPM with the fee quote is great, but this could easily be done in Microsoft Word or other formats.
The front desk team first pages the technicians as soon as a patient arrives before promptly retrieving the pre-compiled paperwork, they then review the quote sheet with the patient, and escorts the patient to a history room for preliminary diagnostic testing.
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We had designed and purchased four self service check-in kiosks (done by CrystalPM and RetailOne) when we redesigned our front desk. At the time we were running four doctors at a time, three patients an hour with three front desk staff, and we felt they needed help because patients might have to wait before they could be checked in.
With our new process, we went down to two staff at the front desk and our self service check-in kiosks get used less than 10 percent of the time!!! Anyone want three kiosks?? LOL! At least they look cool…:-) So, from four doctors to five doctors with less staff, less patient wait time…this system works!
By tracking and analyzing check-in times and implementing pre-arrival preparations, you can get your check-in process under two minutes.
Reducing the check-in time can help create patient loyalty, and your staff will also be much less stressed at the front desk. The front desk position used to be our most hated position, but now that it is so quick and easy, the majority of our staff can fill in up there when needed.
Happier staff, more loyal patients…that works for me!!