Without technology, the healthcare industry wouldn’t be where we are today. It has made scheduling patients, keeping updated patient records, and personalized communication easier. However, technology can't replace patient experience. Although technology is great, there is something different about actually speaking to practice staff. More often than not, appointments originate over the phone. It’s hard, if not impossible, to commit to booking an appointment on an online form or through a text message, especially as a new patient. Patients want to talk to someone. They want to hear about what to expect, ask questions, hear insurance information, calm any nerves, and talk about prior medical history. Leverage technology, but don’t let it take the place of person-to-person communication. Strengthen your patients’ experience over the phone with these five soft phone skills.
Being personable is so important when speaking with patients. They want to feel heard and understood. By using their name throughout conversation, they will feel like a priority to your practice. If needed, write down the patient’s name the first time it’s stated so you can remember it and use it throughout the conversation. With an online form, you aren't given the ability to add that personal touch. Make it a habit to repeat the patient's name over the phone every chance you get.
A patient's experience starts as soon as they pick up the phone to call you. Opinions are created early in the conversation, so be sure your staff is giving patients a friendly greeting. If they answer an inbound call by saying a short
Hello? or a simple
How can I help you?, the patient may form a negative impression from the lack of professionalism. Each staff member should create a consistent, personalized greeting such as,
Hi this is Sarah with 123 Health. How can I help you? This simple change creates a professional interaction and a positive first impression.
As surprising as it may sound, smiling on the phone while talking to a patient can go a long way. If a patient is calling your practice with a medical concern, it is important to show sincere care. It is easy to get into a routine and forget to transfer compassion and friendliness over the phone. Simply place a small mirror at each desk as a reminder to smile; this helps the patient feel warm and welcomed. Always treat a phone conversation like a face-to-face interaction. They are calling because they want to speak to a person, not a machine.
One thing patients can’t get from an online form is empathy. Often, patients are calling medical practices for something they are nervous or concerned about. Whether they need comfort, concerns answered, or someone to complain to, it is your job to listen. If they speak for five minutes straight before stopping, that’s okay. Let them speak for as long as they need, then respond back by summarizing their concerns and needs and offering solutions, if applicable.
Tough patient calls are inevitable. Patients become frustrated, upset, or a may have a different tone of voice than what you typically hear. It might happen daily or weekly, but it will happen, and your staff will have to deal with these difficult conversations. Never match the intensity, tone, or diction of the incoming caller; instead, remain as calm as possible without interjecting or cutting them off. Avoid negative language and listen to their concerns so you can calm any nerves or frustrations they have.
While technology has become an excellent tool in the healthcare industry, it can't replace patient experience. Patients want to feel heard. The most effective way to do so is by picking up the phone.
To learn more soft phone skills that will help improve phone performance at your practice, click HERE.