It’s interesting to watch and listen to the staff in a doctor’s office. How they speak to each other, to the patients and how they answer the phones. What many doctors don’t realize is that the patients who are waiting to be seen are also front row spectators to how their staff interacts with patients in the office and on the phone.
Their actions reflect the image of the practice. What if a patient’s decision about care was made before they go in for the initial exam?
How does your staff rate with these 4 practice building skills?
Phone Etiquette: Speak clearly and professionally when answering the phone and identify the practice by name and provide the name of the person answering the phone. We’ve all had those days when every person you deal with has a complaint or is just plain cranky. I worked with a girl who used to say; “Kill them with kindness”. That was her way of dealing with people who woke up on the wrong side of the bed.
But in reality, she was only treating her patients as they should be treated regardless of their demeanor, she was kind. It’s always best not to show your frustration, stay calm and speak in a non-emotional tone and never offer advice. Handling calls received in response to direct mail marketing or advertising go much smoother if your staff is made aware of the offers before they receive a call. Nothing turns a new patient away quicker than the answer of “I don’t know” or dead silence on the other end of the phone when calling about an offer they read about in the paper.
Scheduling: Giving choices is best when scheduling appointments; it allows for flexibility in schedules and gives the caller a sense of control over their own time. However, there’s no need to muddy the waters, try to stick with only two options. Ask if they need an afternoon or morning appointment.
Then give two time slots to choose from. “We have availability at this time or this time.” Gather insurance information on the phone if possible, this way if time is allowed, the insurance benefits can be confirmed before the patient arrives for their first visit.
Direct patients to the practice website to print out new patient forms and have them already completed when they arrive. If this is not an option encourage the patient to arrive 10 to 15 minutes early to complete the necessary paperwork. There are those times when a person calls and has to be seen immediately, this scenario needs to be worked out between you and your staff before it happens. Is your practice schedule able to handle new patients with immediate needs?
New Patient Visits: Having a majority of the forms filled out before the appointment really helps to eliminate the wait time. However if this is not an option, then have all of the necessary forms gathered together on a clip board and ready to hand to the new patient when they arrive. Much of the new patient information can be gathered during the initial appointment set up, this also helps eliminate backups with the new patient exam.
Another tip is to have plenty of form copies ready to go. It’s frustrating for patients and the staff to have to wait on paperwork to be printed.
Follow up: Equally important as setting the appointment and the new patient exam, without the right protocol for follow up, the patient might not ever set another appointment. Scripts might not come into play with following up as much as having a set procedure in place.
Typically after the new patient exam, a report of findings appointment is set. This allows time for the doctor to study the patient x-rays, go over the exam findings to put together a treatment plan for each new patient, but it also allows time for the staff to verify the patient’s insurance benefits.
The staff will then take the care plan you’ve put together along with the patient’s benefits and formulate a payment worksheet for the patient to have after the ROF. Most new patients are eager to begin their chiropractic treatments as soon as they can. Having all of the financial information available along with a few payment options at the report of findings removes the “elephant in the room”.
Your staff is an important part of your practice success, in fact they can be part of the reason you have a busy practice or the reason you don’t. The most effective form of chiropractic marketing and practice building begins at your front desk.