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Break Patient Communication Barriers With 3 Essential Tips

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Break Patient Communication Barriers With 3 Essential Tips

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Communication barriers

Every member of a medical practice’s front desk staff has to wear a lot of hats. You not only need to follow up on insurance approvals and maintain a tight schedule, but you must also interface with patients who aren’t always feeling their best. In these situations, it can help to break down the most common communication barriers.

Check out three strategies that can help you eliminate communication barriers at your practice and keep patients happy.

1. Use Active Listening Skills

Engaging in active listening means you are listening to what the patient is saying without distractions, and can connect with what the person is saying rather than just hearing the words they’re speaking. And although this may sound simple, if you’re at a busy front desk with a patient who has a long story to tell, it may be challenging.

When you’re practicing active listening, you should listen without judgment, and ask follow-up questions to show you understand what they’re saying. In cases when the patient begins to go off-topic and it’s hard to continue listening actively, you might break the cadence momentarily. For instance, you can say “excuse me, I want to hear the rest of this, but let me just put that ringing phone on hold quickly.”

In many cases, when you come back, you may be able to take control of the conversation back again without the patient realizing it. All they’ll remember is how you actively listened and engaged with what they were saying. This shows your empathy and understanding, while ensuring that you’ve eliminated any unintended communication barriers.

2. Always Be Responsive

It’s critically important to be responsive to patients no matter what’s going on in your life or theirs. If you say to a patient, “I’ll get this information and call you back,” then you must do that. Following through demonstrates trust and respect, and gives the patient confidence that you care about their situation.

If you are unable to get information to the patient that you’ve promised (such as an answer from the doctor), call them and let them know that you don’t have the information but you expect to have it soon. This is better than making a promise that you can’t follow through on, and assures the patient that you respect their time.

3. Adapt Your Communication Style

Most people have heard the phrase, “know your audience,” and this certainly applies to life at the front desk. You wouldn’t talk to your patients the same way you’d talk to your friends, and you should adapt each conversation to the patient’s communication style so you’re sure that you’re overcoming any communication barriers.

And while it’s always helpful to have handy scripts at your front desk for difficult conversations, you can’t use them word for word with every patient. In many cases, you must go “off script” and adapt your conversation to meet the patient where they are.

If there’s any ambiguity about whether you’re speaking to the patient in a way you both understand, you can say, “Just so I make sure that you know what I said, can you repeat back what I said? I want to ensure that you leave here with a strong understanding of next steps.”

Breaking down communication barriers is just one way you can maintain a successful and well-running front desk. Learn from expert Tracy Bird, FACMPE, CPC, CPMA, CEMC, CPC-I, during her latest online training,

Front Desk Fundamentals That Guarantee Success. Register today!

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