This post comes from Ascend 2019 speaker Brian Gallagher, PT, the owner and CEO of MEG Business Management. Want to see Brian speak about building a winning front desk management system in your practice? Register for Ascend here. Curious about the rest of the speaker lineup? Check it out here.

Ready to provide a better patient care experience

Well, look no further than your front desk team. Recently, I suffered a prolapsed L-5, S1 disc and needed to have therapy myself. I was somewhat shocked by the response I received from the people I spoke with while calling around to local PT clinics. At times it felt like I had called the DMV. The people on the phone seemed disinterested in me as a patient, and I could tell I was just another phone call that they needed to answer.  

Finally, I found my clinic of choice, and sure enough, the PT care matched the customer service experience—or maybe I should say the other way around. Either way, I felt heard and cared for as if I were the most important patient they had seen all day. This is the experience we all hope our patients have when they first pick up the phone or step through our doors, right? 

So, what do you need to do to ensure your front desk team wins over the potential new patient in the first 60 seconds of that initial phone call? If and when that patient walks in the door, what needs to take place to carry that winning feeling forward throughout the clinic? How do you get your staff to have a patient advocacy mindset at all times?

This is not 1995. The Macarena is no longer at the top of the charts, and we no longer have Macintosh computers sitting on our desks. It’s high time that we stop thinking our front desk staff is solely responsible for all the products in the clinic. 

5 Ways to Ensure a Winning Patient Care Experience Starts at Your Front Desk 

1. Have a front desk management system.

Depending on your clinic size, this system should involve four to five people who are working in coordination with each other: a front desk person, a biller, the patient care representative, and the therapist. Any patient upsets should be handled and communicated across all members of the team; that way, these issues can be resolved efficiently.

2. Train—don’t teach.

It’s crucial to understand the difference between teaching and training. Focus on training, because that means you’re giving your staff the benefit of developing skills. Your goal is not to teach some bright ideas that will be forgotten tomorrow, but rather to train your employees on how to perform at a higher level with confidence and certainty. This ultimately results in greater efficiency.

3. Be transparent.

Communication and transparency are key to building trust and loyalty among your staff. Do your front desk staff even know what their “products” are? Do they understand how you plan to measure them statistically—or do they still think they are there to “get their hours” by exchanging time for money? Make sure that from day one they know and understand what they will be measured on so that there is no question about it later on.

4. Communicate your why.

For every action being taken inside your practice, your should always be able to answer the question, “Why?” Above all, make sure everyone knows your individual why—that is, why you became a private practice owner to begin with. Most employees want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They want to feel as though they matter—that their contribution counts toward something good. Find a way to show this on a regular basis. After all, this is the role of the CEO: to lead, educate, and motivate.

5. Invest in yourself and your team.

The most successful professional athletes know that in order to perform at their best, they need to invest in themselves as well as those around them. So, invest in yourself and your team to ensure you can train at the best of your ability. This will allow your staff to upskill to their full potential—which means you’re more likely to get the results you expect.

A Final Thought

These steps will help you get into the right mindset to run your team at a higher performance level. Many owners that I have worked with over the years initially think that success is all about what they have to do. They need to be reminded that their doing-ness follows their being-ness as a person and a professional.  

If your team lacks the patient care advocacy mindset—because you aren’t following through on training or implementing standard operating procedures or the best systems of operation—you’re only doing a disservice to your patients, your team, and your referral sources. 


Focus on creating a welcoming environment, paying special attention to what matters most to your patients. This starts with you, the owner, and ends with what you’re willing to accept or tolerate from your staff. Nothing is more important than defining for yourself what the meaning of success is to you. Focus on being the best you, and invest in the application of the best tools and training for the benefit of your staff, your patients, your referral sources, and your community. 

Brian Gallagher, PT, and his wife founded one of Maryland’s largest therapy staffing companies, while at the same time launching their own PT private practice, comprised of six outpatient clinics. Both businesses boomed with a resulting sale of the entire operation in 2006. Brian re-acquired the practices in late 2008, at which time he grew them bigger than before, winning “Practice of the Year” in 2011. In January of 2017, he began MEG Business Management, an educational consulting company for private practice owners across the country. When Brian isn’t consulting or training, he can be found giving lectures at the APTA, PPS, and CSM annual conferences—as well as at several APTA state chapters and physical therapy schools across the country. Brian believes strongly in giving back to the profession of physical therapy and does so by supporting the APTA through lecturing, writing articles, and performing webinars.