When you operate a behavioral health practice, it’s essential that you implement a visitor management system.
Many practices operate with basic and/or fragmented visitor management tools. For example, the office may have a pen and paper sign-in sheet which the receptionist reviews periodically. Upon review, the receptionist then checks in each visitor manually. From there, the receptionist may notify the responsible party that their visitor has arrived.
This seems like a simple process, especially because it has been in use for a long time, but the old-school way is definitely not the most efficient. If you use bare-basic tools and cobble together multiple software to create a check-in or check-out experience, you inadvertently make the process harder on your staff and your visitors.
However, with proper visitor management techniques, you can ensure that your office is secure for both your staff and your visitors. Your visitor management system can reduce the time it takes to check in, which improves your visitors’ overall experience. It can also alleviate the extra burden that your receptionists or security staff often take on to register and/or track visitors while in your office.
In this guide, we share top visitor management tips to implement now so that you can elevate your visitors’ experience. Let’s get started.
Create a Visitor Policy
What’s the first step to good visitor management? Create a standard visitor policy for your office. When creating your policy, consider the following:
Outline your policy
Outline who is allowed to visit your office, and when they can visit. This extends beyond your patients and may include their support team, general delivery personnel, or personal visitors for your office staff. This list can also include vendors, contractors, or temporary employees. When developing your visitor policy, specify how long a visitor can stay and under what conditions. Include any guidelines that you want your visitors to follow while at your office.Check out these tips on how to create a solid visitor policy for your behavioral health practice. Click To Tweet
Be sure to communicate this policy clearly to your visitors so that you set expectations before their arrival.
Define your visitor types (i.e. patients, delivery personnel, etc.) and decide if you need separate policies for each group. If you do need separate visitor policies, decide which behaviors are permitted and which are restricted for each group.
Check the law
When developing your visitor policy, be sure to consult the law. Your visitor policy cannot run afoul of any local, state, or federal law. It’s always a good idea to consult with an attorney to ensure that your visitor policy meets the legal and regulatory requirements for your industry.
Ask for input
Involve your employees when developing your visitor policy. Employees, specifically those who interact the most with visitors, can provide invaluable insight that you can use to build a comprehensive visitor policy. Include your receptionist and security personnel in the discussion because they’re often on the front lines when it comes to interacting with visitors. They can help you create a practical policy that works.
Designate restricted areas
Some areas of your office are likely be restricted from general visitors. However, you may grant a certain group of visitors greater access to your office. To ensure that you properly control access, choose an added control measure that your staff can use to verify a visitor’s authorization, such as an identification badge. This allows you to restrict areas to only those who should be there. When you implement a visitor badge ID system, you and your staff can visually identify visitors and instantly confirm that they are authorized to be where they are.
Create a check-in and check-out process
Develop a set of processes that a visitor must take to properly check in to your behavioral health practice. This includes how they register (via a receptionist or a self-help kiosk), what happens immediately upon check-in, and if you’ll require the visitor to be escorted to a specific location.
You can also create a check-out process that includes many of the same considerations. Your policy should answer the following questions: How does the visitor check out? In what way can my staff support the visitor during the checkout process? Does the visitor need to set up a follow-up appointment during checkout? How can we make this process as seamless as possible?
Plan for emergencies
Emergencies can happen at any time and in the blink of an eye. Whether it’s the threat of violence or a natural disaster, you need a plan for how to handle your visitors who are under your care. Develop a plan that includes how to evacuate, if necessary, and how to keep visitors safe in the face of physical danger.
Train Your Staff
Your staff should be well-versed in your visitor policy. After all, your staff will be the key party enforcing your visitor policy and ensuring compliance. Make sure that your staff is comfortable managing visitors. Hold regular training sessions and provide real-life examples so that your staff knows what to do in various scenarios.
When training your staff on your visitor policy, follow these tips:
Schedule regular training sessions. This gives your staff the opportunity to ask questions about your visitor policy and develop confidence in visitor management. Also, offer refresher courses periodically throughout the year. This can serve two purposes. First, you can use these refresher courses to remind your employees about the role they play in enforcing your visitor policy. You can also use it to address any new updates that you’ve made.
Incorporate role-playing. To support employees who learn while doing, consider using interactive methods, such as role-play.
Use visual aids. To support employees who are visual learners, be sure to pass out visual aids during your training sessions. For example, this aid may include diagrams with evacuation routes. A visual aid can be a quick and handy reference tool for your employees, so be sure to post these documents in highly visible areas within your office.
Review Your Written Visitor Policy Regularly
Your visitor policy should be reviewed and updated regularly. Doing this ensures that your visitor policy is still relevant. When reviewing your visitor policy, be sure that you incorporate feedback from both your visitors and your staff.
Prominently Display Your Visitor Policy
Post your visitor policy in high-traffic, public areas. This notifies visitors who may have overlooked your visitor policy in other forms (i.e. your website or via a confirmation email). Good places to display your visitor policy include the check-in kiosk, the waiting area, public hallways, and bathrooms.
Go High Tech with Your Visitor Sign-In Process
Instead of relying on pen and paper to check in your visitors, upgrade to a visitor management system like The Receptionist for iPad. With a digital visitor management system, your visitors can check themselves in, which frees up your front office staff to handle other responsibilities, such as answering the phone and directing visitors to their destination.
Interested in implementing a more efficient visitor management system in your behavioral health practice? Check out a 12-minute tour of The Receptionist for iPad here.
Keep an Active Record of All Your Visitors
Another benefit to using a visitor management system like The Receptionist for iPad is excellent record keeping. Pen and paper check-in records are subject to disasters of all types, including fire, flood, and physical theft. However, when you use a visitor management system, all of your visitor check-in records are maintained digitally.
You can use these cloud-based records in the event of an emergency. Because you can easily access this information remotely, you can give emergency responders a list of individuals who may still be in the building so that you can account for all individuals.
A visitor log can also provide valuable analytics that can inform future iterations of your visitor policy. For example, your check-in logs can identify peak visitation times. Use this to create a more efficient staffing schedule.
Keep Your Visitors Entertained While They Wait
One essential way to manage your visitors is by keeping them entertained while they wait. Otherwise, your visitors may be tempted to repeatedly come to the receptionist’s desk and ask those three dreaded words, “How much longer?” Or, worse yet, your visitor may end up wandering the halls and ending up in a restricted area.
To reduce boredom, provide visitors with light entertainment, such as reading materials or television.
Screen Visitors for Potential Health Concerns
Although we’re no longer at the height of the pandemic, COVID-19 is still a real concern. You can mitigate your staff and your visitors’ exposure to COVID-19 and other deadly germs by screening visitors for potential health concerns. For example, you can send out a health screening email the day before the visitor arrives. In this screening, ask visitors questions that will help you identify a potential risk. This may include questions about coughing, fatigue, high temperature, vomiting, and shortness of breath.
For visitors who pass the health screening, consider implementing the following features in your behavioral health facility:
Offer hand sanitizer at high-traffic areas, such as the check-in kiosk, the bathrooms, the elevator, and the entrance/exit. Encourage your visitors to use hand sanitizer when arriving and departing.
Ask all visitors to wear masks while in your office to reduce the transmission of harmful germs.
Set a Visitor Limit
Setting a visitor limit can benefit your practice in two ways.
First, when you reduce the number of visitors who can be allowed in your office, you limit unnecessary exposure to germs. The practice of social distancing can limit close-contact germ transmission.
Second, setting a maximum visitor allowance can help you maintain your in-office security. If you have too many visitors, your limited staff may not be equipped to handle them all. This can lead to longer wait times and increased frustration for both your visitors and the staff who has to handle the incoming complaints about waiting.
Create an Emergency Plan
Have a plan for handling emergency situations.
The first step to creating an emergency plan is to conduct a risk assessment of your office space. Make note of any potential dangers that could compromise the security and well-being of your visitors or staff. Be sure to mitigate risks whenever possible and as soon as possible.
It’s a good idea to create an emergency response team that includes multiple representatives from each department, such as the front office, security, and human resources. You can give each person a role to do in case of an emergency. As an extra layer of security, ensure that each emergency response team role has a backup responder who can take over the role, if necessary.
When creating an evacuation plan, consider visitors who may have disabilities. Your plan should encompass the well-being of all visitors.
Encourage Visitors to Report Suspicious Activities
Because we’re all in this together, ask your visitors to report any concerns they may have with your office staff. This includes suspicious activity and belligerent behavior. You can encourage your visitors to report suspicious activities by doing the following:
Post signs around your office to remind visitors that they can and should report suspicious activity to your office staff.
Ensure that your staff presents themselves as approachable. Otherwise, a visitor may not feel comfortable coming forward with a report of suspicious activity.
Ask for Feedback
Ask for feedback from your visitors, including patients, their visitors, contractors, and delivery personnel. This way, you can identify opportunities for improving your overall visitor management.
Review and Update Your Visitor Policy Regularly
Last, but not least, make it a priority to review your visitor policy on a regular basis. As rules, regulations, and other factors change, your visitor policy should be updated to reflect those changes.
By implementing the above visitor management tips, you’ll ensure that your behavioral health practice runs smoothly and with efficiency.
Learn how the Receptionist for iPad can help you improve your firm’s visitor management processes.
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