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Moving to a virtual front desk can produce significant savings and efficiency

Podcast - June 6, 2022

Staffing Models

Patient Flow

Practice Efficiency

Daniel Williams MBA, MSEM

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In a modern, increasingly digital environment, the old-fashioned idea of a front-desk receptionist may no longer be a necessity in a medical practice. Petria McKelvey, chief executive officer of Precision Medical Billing, offers a step-by-step guide to handing off your front-desk duties and figuring out what key staff positions could be more efficiently run as a virtual operation. You can hear more of her insight during “Switching to a Virtual Front Desk and Seeing the Cost Savings,” during the 2022 Medical Practice Excellence: Pathways Conference DX.

MGMA: What’s your elevator pitch for your session?

McKelvey: [Clinicians] don’t really need a front desk; they don’t need somebody sitting there. This is where revenue cycle management starts … before the patient ever comes through the door. I began to see years ago where we were not collecting as much money anymore. It’s because some things were not being done right on the front end, and it affects us on the back end.
[Practices] should interact with a patient — I call it “pre-care” — before they even walk through the door. All of the paperwork, all of the collecting of money — that’s patient financial counselling. By the time a patient comes in, all they should be worried about is getting better. You don’t want their blood pressure to rise because you just told them they owe $300 in the waiting room.

MGMA: What are the key staff positions that are needed to efficiently run that virtual operation?

McKelvey: It’s still going to be someone answering the phone, but they can answer the phone from practically anywhere. Then a different person that needs to do the insurance verification … way before the patient even comes in. Even if it’s an HMO talking to their primary care … especially if it’s a specialist office, all of that needs to be done beforehand and not scrambling at the last minute to do it. We can triage emails, faxes, all of that for the clinical team.

MGMA: What types of cost savings are involved in shifting from a traditional front desk to a virtual front desk?

McKelvey: We’re able to decrease costs because you don’t need somebody full-time or are able to do it at a fractional time. So we don’t take vacations, you don’t have someone taking PTO or getting sick, or paying taxes and health benefits. ... We’re seeing like a 27% increase in net profitability. You don’t need as much space … [Patients] can check in with a kiosk in the reception area, or you could have a QR code on the door or a sign outside, and they can check in that way. 
— Episode recap by Andy Stonehouse, MA, freelance writer/editor
This episode is sponsored by:
  • Scrubin — Let Scrubin Uniforms build you a free private uniform web store where you control what your team can buy. All of your favorite scrub, lab coat, outerwear and corporate apparel brands at exclusive MGMA Member discounts. Go to to learn more.

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The MGMA Insights podcast is produced by Daniel Williams, Rob Ketcham and Decklan McGee. 

About the Author

Daniel Williams
Daniel Williams MBA, MSEM
Sr. Editor MGMA Englewood, Colorado

Daniel provides strategic content planning and development to engage healthcare professionals, managers and executives through e-newsletters, webinars, online events, books, podcasts and conferences. His major emphasis is in developing and curating relevant content in healthcare leadership and innovation that informs, educates and inspires the MGMA audience. You can reach Daniel at or 877.275.6462 x1298.


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