“You only get one chance to make a good first impression,” was something your grandmother might have said. The same holds true for online health insurance exchanges.

According to a Kaiser Health News/Washington Post story, many of you have been taking to heart the excellent advice to gear up your patient financial services departments to help patients sign up for insurance through the exchanges once they go live on Oct. 1.

While that should still be the plan, healthcare providers might want to consider waiting for a few weeks until the operators of those exchanges work out the kinks.

As we reported over on Forbes.com, everyone from the president on down is expecting the exchanges to be buggy, at least in the beginning. Our advice was to ask consumers to wait a month or so before using them to purchase health insurance, which as everyone knows does not start until Jan. 1.

For healthcare providers, we offer similar advice, but with a caveat. While you should recommend to your patients to wait until, say, November to use the online exchanges, it is important to begin working with the exchanges and become familiar with them as soon as possible after launch. Your patients will turn to you for advice if not assistance to help them get insurance and you need to be prepared to answer their questions if not provide them with hands on help.

As anyone who has worked with software and interfaces knows, there are always workarounds, but knowledge of those workarounds comes from repeated use. As providers, you are in a unique position in that it is in your best interest to devote resources to learning the ins and outs of exchanges from the outset.

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