Become an Annual Subscriber and Get $350 Off + Amazon Gift Card SHOP NOW

Ask These Questions to Calm Angry Patients at the Front Desk

Share: Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn

Ask These Questions to Calm Angry Patients at the Front Desk

Share: Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn
how to deal with angry patients

The sooner you can de-escalate angry patients, the better it will be for everyone in your office. The key is to ask questions that will ease their tension and create a calmer environment. Consider the following examples of questions that can help when you’re figuring out how to deal with angry patients.

1. Identify Common Ground and Ask Questions About Those Areas

Any time you can relate to someone, you’ve improved your chances of building rapport and trust with them, so one of the first things you should do after identifying that someone is getting mad is to find common ground. This puts you and the patient on the same level, as human beings with a shared connection.

For instance, they may be wearing a military hat or shirt, in which case you might ask if they served. If they respond that they or a loved one was in the military, you can thank them for your service and note any connection you have to the military as well.

Or maybe they’re wearing perfume or jewelry that you can compliment. You can ask “What perfume is that? It smells so good,” or “What a beautiful necklace, is that an emerald?” so they connect with you over a shared interest in jewelry.

Every patient has some distinctive feature you can ask about, and the key is engaging them in conversation to de-escalate the tension and find that common ground.

2. Ask What Would Make Them More Comfortable

In some cases, patients want to vent and feel better after doing so, but in others, they want to find a solution. That might not always mean the doctor sees them early. In some cases, the provider really is tied up with an emergency and the patient will have to wait. But there are ways you can provide comfort to a patient to make them feel valued and understood.

You might say, “I’m so sorry about the wait, and I understand you’re feeling a lot of discomfort. Is there anything I can do to help make the wait easier?” If they immediately say no, you can offer specific options, depending on their situation. For instance:

  • Can I offer you a glass of water while you wait?
  • Would you like to wait outside where it’s less crowded? I can text or call you when the doctor is ready for you.
  • Would it be more convenient to come back at another time when the doctor isn’t handling an emergency?

If they say no to your suggestions, let them know that you understand and that you’ll alert them as soon as you have an update, but that they should keep you posted on their situation as well. For instance, “If you decide you would like some water or to wait in another area, I’m happy to do what I can to help make your wait more comfortable.”

If they say no to your suggestions, let them know that you understand and that you’ll alert them as soon as you have an update, but that they should keep you posted on their situation as well. For instance, “If you decide you would like some water or to wait in another area, I’m happy to do what I can to help make your wait more comfortable.”

3. Ask if They’d Like to Talk Somewhere Else

Your patient might be stressed about something very private to them, which they don’t feel comfortable discussing in front of a waiting room full of strangers. Maybe they have a sick family member or pet that they’re eager to get home to. Or perhaps they are having some discomfort in a sensitive area they want to address that they prefer not to talk openly about. Maybe they need to use the bathroom but prefer not to use the one located in the waiting area.

If patients seem to be frustrated, but holding are back on what the real issue is, you can offer to speak to them somewhere more private. If they agree, say that you’re going to find coverage for the front desk and a place to talk, and that you’ll get right back to them.

Once you have a private area where they can speak openly (such as the practice manager’s office), don’t go into the area alone with the patient. Make sure you have another person there, just in case the patient continues to get angrier rather than calming down. For instance, you can join the patient and the practice manager in a small office to hear their private concerns.

Pinpointing How to Deal With Angry Patients Involves Voice, Tone

When you’re talking to a patient who seems to be getting angry, give them your full attention and listen empathetically. When you respond, use a calm voice and tone, rather than also amplifying your voice to compete with theirs. It’s possible that they will mirror what you’re doing and speak in a relaxing tone back to you.

Keep in mind that if a patient ever threatens violence or appears to be getting violent, you should escalate the encounter by bringing your practice manager into the situation or calling 911, depending on how angry they are. No one should ever feel unsafe at work, and your front desk team shouldn’t have to face threats while doing their job.

To learn more about how to deal with angry patients, check out the online training session, De-Escalate Angry Patients at Your Front Desk More Quickly, presented by John White, CPP, CHPA. During the 60-minute training, you’ll find out how to prevent incidents before they start, and how to calm patients who are already upset.


Subscribe to Healthcare Practice Advisor
Get actionable advice to help improve your practice’s
reimbursement, compliance, and success in this weekly eNewsletter.
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • Hidden