Phone-Calls-Dr-Marketing-Tips-300x200Patients said phone calls were the worst part about the office experience.

So, we thought, “How can we make phone calls better for our client and their patients?” Now that it’s not just about insurance anymore, patient satisfaction is front and center for medical practices.

Below you’ll find a few tips and strategies you can use at your office to increase efficiency on the phone and improve patient satisfaction during phone calls.

Remind Staff How Important the Patient Is

We’re all guilty of it.

Sometimes we got lost in the day-to-day-mark-off-task-one-and-move-to-task-two mentality and we forget why we went into healthcare in the first place (it was to help people in case you need a reminder). Every phone call is a life choosing your office for help, and it’s up to you to make a difference for them. Call a quick meeting and remind staff answering the phones that we’re here to help, these people matter and they need us to improve their life.

It’s often said you can hear someone smile through the phone; so take a few minutes and remind your phone operators that patients are listening for that smile and they deserve to hear it. Every. Time.

Incentivize Staff

When the phone rings at your practice, do you have a goal in response time or are you just hoping it doesn’t go to voicemail? Set a goal and then incentivize staff to meet and exceed it. We suggest 80 percent of calls answered within 30 seconds or less.

As a motivator, create a contest for front desk staff, appointment schedulers or whomever is responsible for answering your phones. Those that meet or exceed the goal should be recognized among their peers and rewarded. Take them out to lunch once a month or pick up a gift card the next time you’re at Target – anything to show their efforts matter.

Oh, and be sure to be consistent with your rewards. If you start an incentive program, you can’t stop without good reason (and “I forgot” is not good reason).

Tweak Operations

There are a few ways you can easily increase efficiency when it comes to phone calls from an operational standpoint. Consider:

  • phone lady. This is especially handy at night and over the weekend. Instead of having a staff member dedicate an entire morning to deciphering voicemails and calling patients back, she will have an inbox (or spreadsheet) with data neatly filled out. She can then mow down a list and confirm appointments much faster than checking a few dozen voicemails on the office line. We’ve seen this form work for our clients, even generating 300+ appointments month over month that would have either been phone calls or folks that wouldn’t have scheduled at all.
  • Answer the phone with, “Hello, when would you like to be seen?” This surprises the patient, but it gets the conversation rolling right away. Sure, sometimes the caller may not need to be seen, but about 90% of your calls are for appointments or follow ups, so you may as well jump right in.
  • Stagger staff members in the front so one is managing patients at the office and one is on the phone. This way, no one is left unattended and your team can work together to increase patient flow efficiency and get patients back to see their doctor as soon as possible.

Break Down What Your Medical Staff Should be Saying

We hear it far too often. Physicians, especially those who tend to have a few more gray hairs, like to tell patients to call the office and let us know how you’re doing. Ugh. This creates a bottleneck at the front, which takes staff away from getting new patients scheduled and can lead to a negative experience from the patient on the line because of how much they have to wait just to let someone know how they feel.

Instead, schedule a training session (or two) for your medical staff and explain why it’s important for them to tell patients to use the patient portal for messaging. Talk about how it slows the office down and may be hurting the bottom line. Present any hard numbers you can so the physicians can clearly see how they’re costing themselves money by creating inefficiencies – that should get them to do what you need right away.

Have any other tips for getting more out of phone calls to your practice? Leave a comment and let us know what we missed.