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Improve Patient Satisfaction with Proven Hold Etiquette

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Improve Patient Satisfaction with Proven Hold Etiquette

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Patient phone calls

An estimated 80% of patient first contact happens over the phone. And with practices dealing with smaller staffs and increasing patient requests, chances are good that some portion of patient phone calls will be put on hold.

How your staff handles putting a patient on hold can make or break their relationship with your practice.

No one likes being put on hold, especially when they’ve got a medical question. But making the experience more pleasant for your patients can go a long way to fostering a positive relationship and improving retention.

Communicate these three important elements of an effective patient hold process to your team to make telephone calls a little less frustrating and boost patient satisfaction:

Communicate: Ask First

Prior to putting patient phone calls on hold, ask if it’s OK to put them on hold. The patient could be experiencing a medical emergency and need immediate attention.

Asking “Can I put you on hold?” and then really listening to the response – not just asking the question and immediately putting the caller on hold – is an essential first step toward creating a positive hold experience. In most cases, patients will agree to being put on hold so other callers can be helped.

If a caller doesn’t consent to being put on hold (and it will happen from time to time), instruct your team to help the patient before moving on to other callers.

In these situations, having more than one person available to answer phone calls is the best way to get to every caller as quickly as possible. However, if you’re a smaller practice and cannot support multiple people answering phones, it’s OK to use an auto attendant so the phone doesn’t ring incessantly but full attention can be given to individual callers.

Apologize for Inconvenience

Being put on hold is annoying, even to the most easy-going patients. Make sure your staff apologizes to each patient for the inconvenience of being put on hold.

A simple, “I apologize for having to put you on hold” goes a long way toward showing patients that you understand having to wait is frustrating. That little bit of empathy can make or break the patient experience, and an apology from the person answering the phone tells them your practice values their time even when you must put them on hold.

Don’t Leave Them Hanging

Sitting on hold for an indeterminate amount of time is frustrating, especially if you’ve got a medical question or need to schedule an appointment.

To combat this, instruct your team to give patients an approximate time frame for their hold before they put the call on hold. Even if they aren’t completely accurate, simply saying, “I have one other patient to speak with, then I’ll be right back with you” gives the patient a light at the end of the hold tunnel.

Some patients may say they don’t have a few minutes to be put on hold. In these instances, your desk staff should offer first to take a message and call the patient back. If the patient balks at this option, then they should help them in the moment.

Take it one step further

Phone etiquette is an important part of keeping patients happy and offering high-quality service in all situations. But as your staff gets more overloaded with increased patient requests, providing the same level of service can be tricky. Poor front desk performance can have very serious consequences for your office, such as plummeting patient retention, reduced new patient volume, HIPAA privacy violations, and penalties, increase accounts receivable, and seriously reduced cash flow, just to name a few. But you can do something about it. You can help your staff quickly and easily fortify their front desk skills with this essential 5-part online training series presented by expert Tracy Bird, FACMPE, CPC, CPMA, CEMC, CPC-I.

 


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