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Your most overlooked care team member: Front desk staff

January 28, 2020

    Almost all medical groups are piloting changes to the care team, such as hiring more advanced practice providers (APPs) and expanding the medical assistant's (MA's) job description. But these pilots often just focus on core clinical care team members and overlook the role of front desk staff. However, getting these administrative roles to top-of-license is key to creating more capacity for the clinical care team and ensuring everyone works at the top of their game.

    Audit and optimize your primary care team with our task allocation guide

    We're starting to see organizations position their front desk staff to perform more tasks that traditionally fall to the clinical care team. In addition to top-of-license gains, administrative team members usually find these expanded roles more engaging, too. For instance, The Polyclinic—a multispecialty group based in Seattle—has a centralized team of front desk staff that conducts patient outreach for population health, a task central to the group's quality performance.

    The Polyclinic positions front desk staff to help close care gaps

    A few years ago, The Polyclinic created a population health outreach team comprised entirely of patient service representatives (PSRs), the group's term for front desk staff. This centralized team of 4-5 PSRs comb data reports from the group's EHR and payers to identify patients who are due for population health services like an annual wellness visit, mammogram, or diabetic eye exam. The PSRs then call the patient and schedule them for whatever visit is due. In the event that the patient has already had this service completed elsewhere, the PSR will track down the report and upload the information to the EHR to update the patient's record. Before this centralized team of PSRs existed, patient outreach was performed one-off in practices, and often fell to the MA, even though it was a task that didn't require their clinical training.

    Now with PSRs at the helm, The Polyclinic is able to ensure more consistent outreach and care gap closure to meet the group's quality targets. Elevating PSRs in this way also frees up the clinical care team to complete more top-of-license work. And it's clear that this strategy is working. Last year, The Polyclinic achieved a 75% completion rate for annual wellness visits, and their goal for next year is 90%, with front desk staff leading the charge.

    The Polyclinic has found that this centralized PSR outreach team is so successful that they've recently added two MAs to conduct pre-visit planning and pend orders, as well as two RNs to perform transitional care management. Going forward, the group envisions that this rebranded "Patient Panel Management and Population Health Outreach Team" will serve as the hub for high-risk patients to ensure that they receive the care they need and quality targets are met.

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