This advice is from my wife, Stefanie. She is a master at customer service, and scheduling new patients. This advice is for you, and your scheduler, and if followed, will lead to more big cases, starting with the vital new patient phone call.
It is very important to establish a good relationship with a patient right up to their first phone call. Every phone call should be treated as the first opportunity to help someone. It is also very important to ensure that you are listening to the patient when they call in. It doesn’t matter if the patient has never been there, or has been there for years, they are calling you because they are expecting to be helped. Not everyone is calling for the same reason, so it is vital that you listen first. This is your first step to really helping the patient.
These are the 4 steps in helping a current, or potential patient on the phone:
1. Listen: Listen to what the patient is saying. What are their needs? Are they in pain? Are they upset? Are they worried about something? All of these needs are handled in a different way, so it is imperative that you listen.
2. Acknowledge: I have handled a lot of patients that are in need, and are very thankful to receive a simple acknowledgement. By simply letting the patient know that you have heard, and understand their needs goes a long way. They know now that you are willing, and able to help them.
3. Find an answer: Now that you have acknowledged the patient, it is important to find an answer to their problems. This can come in different ways. If a patient is calling, and they are simply looking for advice on a prescription, or a billing question, it is unnecessary to get them in the office. All you would do is simply put them on hold, and either find the answer if the proper person is available, or simply let them know that you will call them back promptly with the answer. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO CALL THEM BACK PROMPTLY! If the patient is calling in, and is in pain, or wants to know more about a procedure, it is important to assist the patient as much as possible in getting them in to see the doctor. IT IS NEVER OK TO DIAGNOSE OVER THE PHONE, ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE NOT THE DOCTOR! You can say things like “I know the doctor is going to want to see you, and I am going to help you with that”. Anytime a patient knows that the doctor is recommending something, they tend to listen.
4. Get them the help NOW!!!! : If a patient is calling in, and needs to be seen, a strong effort needs to be put forth on getting them in right away. A PATIENT IN PAIN NEEDS TO BE SEEN WITHIN 24 HOURS. An office that is efficient, and productive can get an emergency seen, and diagnosed in 2 units of time. Get them out of the operatory quickly, and into the consult room. A good way to do this is to have a few 2-unit blocks in your schedule for emergencies. If it is a true emergency, a patient will come when you have time. I always explain to new patients that we like to have a full mouth, and a thorough exam on all new patients, but because they are in pain, we will see them that day to handle the area that is bothering them, and we will schedule the full workup after that. Getting patients in, and serviced is key to big case acceptance. Thinking outside the box, and realizing that patients do not fit into the same category can really set you up for fast expansion.