The Patient Experience: Tips for Improving Front Desk Communications

Posted by Practice Management Institute on Apr 19, 2023 3:15:00 PM
Practice Management Institute

The front desk is your patient’s first impression, and whether it’s checking in a patient, verifying insurance, or scheduling an appointment, how things are handled can make or break a patient’s experience. Because there’s a great deal of pressure for such activities to run smoothly, medical office staff must be equipped with the right training and support to deliver exceptional service. Here are just a few tips from our CMOM course for practice managers to consider implementing at the front desk.

Front Desk Tips to Improve Patient Satisfaction

Phone Call Etiquette

  • Implement a 3-ring rule for staff to pick up all calls. 
  • Staff should ask permission prior to placing the patient on hold.
  • Callers should never be on hold for longer than 2 minutes.
  • Emergency or urgent calls should be returned ASAP and documented in patient charts.
  • Non-emergency calls should be returned within 24 hours and documented in the patient chart.
  • Confidential (i.e. medical or collection) phone calls should be held in a private area, so patients do not overhear. 

Patient Check-In

  • A clean lobby with comfortable seating should be available with COVID-19 guidelines displayed visibly and communicated prior to patient arrival.
  • A patient's time is valuable and wait times matter. Always try to relay appointment delays as soon as possible. 
  • Patients should be offered the option of rescheduling when delays occur.
  • The office should be prepared for language or communication difficulties.
  • Front desk staff should ensure the patient or patient's representative understands all questions presented to them as well as information or instructions provided to them.

Appointment Scheduling

  • Urgent appointments should be scheduled within 24/48 hours.
  • Routine appointments should be available within a reasonable timeframe. 
  • There should be a written protocol for follow-up on missed appointments.
  • Call patients the day before to remind them of their appointments.
  • Never leave messages on a recorder or with an individual other than the patient without the patient’s written consent.


  • Patients should be advised prior to the visit about insurance and billing protocols. 
  • Staff should be been trained on how to handle patient questions or complaints about billing and/or comments regarding “high” fees etc.
  • Staff should make direct contact (phone call, email, or letter) with the patient regarding their account before the account is placed in collections.

Build an Amazing Front Office Team

When it comes to optimizing your front desk operations, effective training is a must! Consider enrolling your ream in PMI's comprehensive Medical Front Office Skills Certificate Program

Learn More

Topics: medical office, medical office manager topics, medical office staff, medical office training

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