Front Desk Communication Strategies to Calm the Angriest Patient

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Front Desk Communication Strategies to Calm the Angriest Patient

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Angry Patient Communication

Defusing angry or hostile patients is a critical skill for everyone on your front desk team to have. How your staff handles these situations can have a positive or negative ripple effect for everyone in your office. Angry Patient Communication.

In many instances, clear communication is the solution. When done correctly this can de-escalate most situations before they become problematic. For example, if your provider is running 45 minutes behind, don’t tell the patient “It will be just a few more minutes.” No one likes to be lied to. You are just prolonging the inevitable if your provider is really running 45 minutes behind.

Instead of giving your patients false hope, give them options. Angry Patient Communication.

In the case of your provider being 45 minutes late, inform the patient of the actual delay time, and then ask them if they’d like to wait, reschedule or leave and come back closer to when your provider will be available. If your patient decides to wait If they decide to wait, offer them a bottle of water or a snack. Providing these types of accommodations to make your patient’s wait more pleasant will usually calm them down and make them more agreeable regarding the wait.

Unfortunately, being honest doesn’t always work. Angry Patient Communication.

In the situation above, you could notify the patient about the 45-minute wait time and they could get angry anyway.  Their anger might have nothing to do with you or the fact that your provider is delayed. You gave the patient the bad news and they’re going to take it out on you. Angry Patient Communication.

If a patient does get angry, here are 7 steps your front desk staff can take to calm things down:

  1. Control Your Voice Tone:
    It is essential not to respond to anger with anger. This will only escalate an already deteriorating situation. When a patient begins to raise his voice or yell at your front desk team, encourage your staff member to stay calm. One of the best ways to convey your mood is with the tone of your voice. If you’re upset, you’ll usually talk faster and louder and your pitch will get higher. To calm things down speak slowly and evenly. Also, if you speak more softly, usually the person you are speaking to will eventually match your tone.
  2. Use Patient’s Name:
    Try using the patient’s name when you respond to them. This will make the patient feel like you are really listening to him. It makes the conversation more personal between you and the patient (not everyone else in the waiting room). This may help him respond more calmly.
  3. Really Listen:
    Don’t interrupt. Let the patient get out everything he has to say. Don’t try to rush him, whether you have somewhere else you are supposed to be or not. Be sure to really listen to what your patient is saying. He might just need to get things off his chest. Actively listen to what his complaint is. Often, the patient just wants to feel heard and understood.
  4. Separate the Patient:
    The last thing you want is a person yelling at your front desk in front of the other patients in your waiting room. Wait for a pause in the conversation and recommend that you and the patient step aside to discuss the issue in more detail. This will make the patient feel like you are taking them seriously and stop your other patients from having to be privy to the event.
  5. Document the Conversation:
    As the patient is explaining to you why they are upset, start taking notes. Tell the patient that you are taking detailed notes to ensure you get everything right, and so that you can avoid this from happening again. After the patient has calmed down, and toward the end of the conversation, read your notes back to him to make sure you understood the entire issue. It is extremely important that you’ve taken notes accurately. If you repeat back his issue incorrectly, it could make the patient angry once again.
  6. Provide a Timeline:
    At the end of your conversation, give the patient a specific time when you’ll be following up with him. This is important because it allows the patient to see an end to his frustration. Be sure to do what you say. If you say you’ll call him before 3 on Thursday, do it. Even if you don’t have all the answers, you should still call the patient and give him an update, and possibly a new timeline for completion.
  7. Resolution:
    Finally, use the notes that you took to investigate the situation and hopefully come up with a resolution. If you can’t resolve the issue on your own, ask others to help. Then, once a resolution is found, report it back to the patient. Failure to follow up will most certainly lead to further negative interactions with the patient, or worse, they could choose to leave your practice.

You can checkout Training Leader’s entire Front Desk Training series online. Front desk specific subjects include: Phone Skills, Workplace Violence, Sign-in Sheet Compliance, HIPAA Danger Zones, Collecting Outstanding Balances, and Medical Records. New front desk specific trainings are being added regularly. Angry Patient Communication.

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Meet Your Writer

Samantha (Sam) Saldukas

President, Healthcare Training Leader

Samantha (Sam) Saldukas started Healthcare Training Leader in 2012 after working as a leader in healthcare information for 20+ years. She wakes up every morning striving to help physician and dental offices improve the business-side of their practices. Her background in nursing and running her husband’s practice makes her passionate about figuring out how to help your practice succeed. More than 5 years later, thousands of practices have turned to Healthcare Training Leader for affordable, easy-access solutions to their most challenging business and regulatory issues. Some of the key topics include coding, billing, compliance, credentialing and practice management. Healthcare Training Leader guarantees the quality of every single training it offers.  Each session is backed by a money-back  guarantee of satisfaction to ensure you get what you need.