Of all the mistakes we hear on the phones, the hardest one to measure is how well a team member connects with a patient at an emotional level. Patients, particularly new patients, are hypersensitive to these things. If you aren’t careful, even trained employees can come across as efficient but cold or uncaring.
The five “C”s is a framework for team members to keep in the back of their minds as they’re taking a call:
Connect with the patient with your greeting and make them feel welcomed to the practice.
Most practices handle this pretty well.
Comfort them because they are calling with some sort of issue. Make sure the caller knows they’re going to be taken care of within your practice.
Comfort is frequently missing in phone calls. There isn’t concern or empathy for the patient’s situation. Patients aren’t assured that you care about them or that they called the right place. They aren’t given confidence in the doctor they’ll see or their ability to solve the patient’s issue.
Listen to your team members’ phone calls. If possible, listen without looking at the speaker. You’ll find that there are people who naturally sound empathetic over the phone. They may not be the most empathetic in the group; they may just sound that way. Listen carefully. Make sure the person who sounds the most empathetic is the one who answers the majority of calls.
Once again, if possible, take phones away from the front desk. Without distractions, your team can better focus on empathizing with callers.
Patients often have questions prior to scheduling. Make sure you answer all of them clearly and concisely.
Clarification is done in most practices, but the answers are too long. Team members often give way too much information (including clinical terms the patient doesn’t understand). Some team members even offer incorrect answers. Both methods create a disconnect between the patient and the practice.
The FAQ list is a key part of clarifying. It ensures that you always give the right information. When you’re building that FAQ list, sharpen the answers so they are true and straight to the point.
If you don’t have the information you need to answer a question completely, suggest that the patient come to your office to do a full consultation that includes this information.
Capture their appointment and gather personal information. This is generally done, but many practices collect far too much upfront.
Everybody has had the experience while signing up for something of questions that go on forever. We’ve seen phone- answering checklists that have 50 items on them. That’s overkill and unnecessary. Keep your requests to only the most pertinent and necessary information.
Here’s what information you should collect over the phone:
- Personal information: first name, last name, and a call-back number. If there’s a change in the schedule or they don’t show up, you can call to find out why and see if you can reestablish your connection with that patient.
- After a patient is five minutes late to an appointment, do a quick courtesy call. If they’ve forgotten or something has come up, we can often get them in the same day. Again, appointment availability is essential. If you can accommodate them, they’re often able to come in a little later.
- The patient’s chief desire. This is whatever will motivate the patient most. The chief complaint is also very helpful. Determine the appointment need.
- All the information a patient wants to give you. If they are efficient and have their insurance information ready, capture it. The caller will feel heard, understood, and more comfortable about using their insurance in your office.
Additional Information to Collect
Getting additional information is valuable but requires more work.
Here’s the best way to handle it:
- Get an appointment made. Seal the deal for the
- Once the appointment is made, begin to gather other information that will be helpful to you and the clinical team.
Beneficial information to collect:
• Financial information. Collect this in preparation for a complete financial arrangement discussion. Patients are significantly more relaxed and less fearful when they understand the process. If you have this information, you’ll be able to provide them with a good idea of the relative cost. You can have a more meaningful and powerful case presentation when you understand that.
• Insurance. Find out if they are using insurance. Just ask if they do. If they offer you the insurance information at that point, great. If they can’t do it quickly, don’t have it, or there’s any resistance to giving it, leave the topic alone.
It’s quite helpful to have insurance information on hand at a patient’s first visit. The staff knows if they should ask for an insurance card.
Understanding any limits to their benefits, the staff can have other financial arrangements ready for the patient.
A certain percentage of patients will delay making a decision until they have all the information. This removes that delay.
Recap what you have talked about as far as the appointment date and the time. Make sure the patient knows where you’re located. If they don’t, provide directions.
This is nearly always missing in the calls we listen to.[starbox id=107]