Blog Post

FAQ: Organize to Optimize: Front Office Efficiencies to Improve Patient Outcomes and Boost Clinic Revenue

Here’s what PTs, OTs, and SLPs are asking about building a better front office to drive a better patient experience.

Breanne Krager
5 min read
February 22, 2022
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Your front office probably has some room for improvement. We don’t mean that in the finger-wagging “you brought home a bad report card” kind of way—rather we believe that most clinics have opportunities to better cater to the patient experience (and reduce staff burden to boot). So, in an effort to help you build the best front office operations physically possible, WebPT hosts Heidi Jannenga, PT, DPT, ATC, and Brian Kunich, PT, joined forces to host an hour-long webinar that was packed to the brim with actionable insights about the front office environment. 

During the presentation, we received many thought-provoking questions—and while we couldn’t answer them all live, we decided to answer the most common ones here! 

What is the most effective way to transition from paper charts, intake forms, etc. and move to a fully electronic system?

Great question, and one I’m sure others are grappling with as well. While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, I can tell you this: the critical first step to making this switch is to get your team behind it. Take the time to explain how these solutions will help automate menial administrative tasks, thus freeing your staff up to concentrate on more important job functions—like making meaningful connections with your patients. 

I’d also recommend making your staff part of the decision-making process. Ask them what’s working and what’s not, and use this feedback to help you choose the right solutions. They will feel valued, which will help make the process smoother from start to finish.

As for the rest, I highly recommend downloading “The Complete Guide to Implementing a Physical Therapy Software.” It provides a step-by-step plan for those considering new software. From how to choose the right software to how to create a seamless implementation plan, this guide can take you and your team over the finish line.

Verify benefits in two minutes or less—and ditch long payer phone calls for good— with WebPT Electronic Benefits Verfification.

How do you broach the conversation with your patients about collecting their deductibles or coinsurances upfront?

We know this isn’t always the most comfortable conversation, but one way to ensure it goes as smoothly as possible is to have it upfront. Be transparent about what patients’ out-of-pocket expenses are. For new patients, this means telling them prior to their first appointment so they know what to expect. And for existing patients, this conversation should always happen around the first of the year should their plans—and thus, their deductible—change. Your patients will appreciate your straightforward approach, and it will likely garner more trust from them in the long run. After all, no one like a surprise medical bill.

What is the best way to handling expiring authorizations?

As you know, virtually every payer requires some form of prior-authorization for rehabilitative services. However, very few plans have similar pre-authorization guidelines—and the rules around these guidelines tend to change fairly frequently. In short, managing pre-authorizations can be a challenge. Therefore, it’s critical to establish a dependable insurance verification process for each patient to ensure their plans are still active. We have a couple of blog posts that can help you streamline your verification process. Additionally, check out this handy step-by-step resource to obtaining prior authorizations.

How do you measure your front desk collection rate?

There’s actually a formula to measure your clinic’s net collection rate—and it’s one of the most important metrics use to monitor a clinic’s billing and financial health. To calculate your net collection rate (as stated in this blog post), “divide your total payments by your total payments plus adjustments over a set time period (the previous six months is a good place to start). Then, multiply this number by 100. Typical collection rates should be 50% to 65%—and this number should be very stable from month to month.”

You should be able to find this information in your clinic’s EMR. For example, WebPT’s Patient Payments log stores all of the payments the front desk has collected over time. Users can run reports from this log in a matter of seconds to see how much money their clinic brought in that day—or whatever specific time frame you’re most interested in. And for ways to optimize your collections process, check out this blog post here.

How can we go fully digital when we have a high demographic of older or non-tech savvy patients?

The way our world is now, going fully digital won’t remain a choice for clinic owners for much longer. So, our best advice is to take this transition slowly—and to clearly communicate all upcoming technology changes with your patients before you actually start rolling them out. Consider distributing an FAQ (by way of email or pamphlet) that explains why this change is happening, and instructions on how patients can navigate this new digital process. Additionally, we recommend adding new tools gradually so as not to overwhelm your patients with change.

Once you’ve introdued a new piece of technology, be sure to check in with your patients. Making time for them to ask questions—or to walk through the new process with them—will go a long way in easing their minds and increasing their confidence in your team.

Once you identify patients who are flight risks—and how do you re-engage them?

As Kunich states in the webinar, identifying and re-engaging patients who are flight risks comes down to two main things:

  • Having a system in place to regularly track patient cancellations or no-shows (like WebPT’s Lost Patient Log); and
  • Following up with these patients to understand why they’re not showing up (and then using this information to determine how to get them back on the books).

I know, I know—easier said than done. Which is why we created a free guide to help clinicians better understand patient dropout—and eliminate it in their clinics for good.

What is a good benchmark ratio between front office staff and therapists?

This is a tough one, as each clinic is different, and therefore will likely benefit from a slightly different staffing structure. However, we will say this: If you feel your staff is no longer able to sufficiently engage with patients one-on-one, it may be time to hire another person to share the workload. Of course, some of these bottlenecks could also be solved through automation, so be sure to explore what front office tools are available to clinics. 

Would you recommend therapists try sending automated text messages to their patients? 

If you think it would be well received by your patients, then by all means, yes! Of course, this will require you to reach out and ask what their preferred method of communication is. Once established, though, it’s merely a matter of finding the right scheduling solution to safely send automated appointment reminders through. (Check out WebPT’s Scheduling tool to see what we mean.)

Didn’t see your question answered above? Feel free to drop it in the comment section below, and our team will do its best to find you an answer! 


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