In my Jan. 29, 2007 article, "Creating a Plan for a Winning Day," we established that having systems and using them to handle a variety of situations allow your office to function at its highest level and allow your patients to receive the best care available.In this article, we will focus on the use of new-patient checklists. When used properly, these checklists will provide your new patients with a wow experience they will never forget, causing them to tell their families, friends and co-workers what a great office you have.
Have a minimum of 10 new-patient packets pre-made for each type of financial category you accept in your office. In most offices, you will have cash, insurance, personal-injury, workers' compensation and Medicare patients. However, you also might find the need to create packets for any managed care programs you are contracted with, along with their required forms. Remember to only make folders for the types of patients you want to attract. In other words, if you do not accept workers' compensation cases, do not make folders for these patients.
Place all forms to be used during the first two visits in the order they will be used, and remember to always give the patient one form at a time, using proper scripts to ensure proper completion. Giving them more than one form is overwhelming. When people are in pain, they don't always think clearly and might not remember your instructions, which can lead to misunderstanding and incorrect or incomplete data.
Staple the new-patient checklist to the outside of each folder. It will be removed once all the required paperwork and procedures are completed or when it's determined the patient will not be returning. Once it's removed, it is filed inside the patient's folder. The checklist is broken down into several different sections:
- A header lists the color assigned to the financial category, along with the codes used in the computer. For example, if your private health insurance color is orange and the codes you use in the computer in the "Financial Category" section are PR and PRNA, the header on the private health insurance checklist would read "Health Insurance-Orange (PR, PRNA)."
- The body of the checklist will list in detail each item that must be completed before the file is complete. There are sections for the front desk, doctor, financial coordinator and office manager. Each item to be completed should have a number next to the item, indicating which day the item is to be completed. For example "(1) Completed Intake Form" tells the front desk the intake form is to be completed on the first visit. There also should be a space for them to initial, indicating the item was completed.
- The front desk is responsible for preparing and ensuring completion of forms, such as the patient intake, history, informed consent and financial policy forms, as well as a thank-you note to send to the referring person and a welcome note to send to new patients. In addition, the front desk needs to have the following items prepared for the doctor: examination and consultation forms, first-adjustment call slip, and report-of-findings packets.
- There also will be items specific to financial situations. For example, personal-injury patients would have an additional injury questionnaire/history and lien form, as well as any forms related to insurance, such as the MedPay insurance verification form. You might even consider having two different folders for your personal- injury cases, because the automobile cases are handled much differently than slip-and-fall-type cases.
- The doctor's section would include all items they are responsible for completing, such as the consultation and examination forms, along with the diagnosis, including the date of onset and a prepared written report of their findings.
- The financial coordinator's section will include all work that must be completed in order to complete billing and collections properly. This would include completing the insurance verification process, communicating with attorneys and setting up payment plans for patients who require them.
- The office manager signs, indicating that all procedures are complete. The folder can now be filed away.
- Finally, in the footer, place a brief reminder of the financial policy. For example, "Pays 100% of the first visit."
Periodically review and revise your checklist. There are many details involved in the processing of a new patient. Without regular meetings to cover the purpose and procedures, many times procedures will fall through the cracks. Often, it's because someone did not think the procedure was necessary and just stopped doing it - without first checking with the entire team to find out why the procedure was on the checklist in the first place. In some cases, it's unclear as to who is responsible for the completion of items or why they were necessary. Never assume everyone knows what to do, how to do it or why it is done.
One of my favorite quotes came from my "Success Journal" years ago: "This is the story of Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Everybody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it. Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody's job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done."
The important lesson here is communication! Don't assume - find out and take the initiative.
Using the new-patient checklist system will allow you to impress your new patients with your organization and efficiency. Nothing makes a worse impression than a CA or doctor running around the office looking for a form that was not reordered when the last one was used; or trying to find an empty folder because there were not enough in stock. Finally, remember that nature always will fill a void if you want it filled. When you are ready for new patients, have the new-patient packets and checklists prepared. In this way, you show the universe your office is organized and your staff is ready to be of service.
If you would like a sample new-patient checklist, please e-mail me at with "NP CL" in the subject field.
Click here for previous articles by Lisa Bilodeau, CA.