Clinics handle large volumes of patients. Therefore, it is essential to reinforce and improve the first line of contact for a patient. In this case, we are referring to your clinic’s phone line. While there is no face-to-face interaction, a phone call can set the tone for what is to be expected at your clinic.
You may be surprised at how much a phone call can give insight into the level of service and care that your clinic will provide. Patients want to feel like their needs are prioritised and that they are speaking to someone knowledgeable and prepared to handle their requests.
What sounds like basic phone etiquette actually serves a greater purpose. With proper introductions, patients know who they were first speaking to and who to look for should they need to call back. Additionally, a professional introduction sets the tone for the level of care they might expect to receive.
Your clinic staff should aim to address three essential phases of the conversation: opening, analysis, and solution.
A strong is vital since it consists of appropriately identifying the clinic or the private office that the patient has reached. This makes it easier for patients to confirm that they have reached the clinic they were trying to.
The second thing is to introduce yourself so the patient knows with whom they are speaking and receiving assistance from. Additionally, should a call need to be transferred internally, it is essential that etiquette be maintained from person to person.
Your clinic staff should be able to quickly analyse and determine what the patient needs before taking appropriate action. This may be redirecting the call to another member of staff or setting up an appointment with the corresponding doctor.
Finally, confirm the appointment made, if any, and that there are no further queries. Remember to wait for the caller to hang up; this ensures that there are no other questions from the patient.
While medical terminology is most likely part and parcel of working at a clinic, it is essential to bear in mind that this is not the case for your patients. As far as possible, steer clear of using medical jargon when speaking to patients over the phone. If you absolutely must use a medical term, follow up with a simplified explanation, so the patient is kept well-informed.
Remember, patients calling in are often already in some form of discomfort. They need you to be as clear and simple as possible when speaking to them so as to avoid any confusion or miscommunication. If you find that the patient on the line is not being clear themselves, always rephrase and confirm that that is what they meant. This ensures a clear channel of communication and that they are directed to the right doctor or specialist.
While remaining clear and professional while speaking to patients on the phone, it is also imperative that you adhere to the Healthcare Service Act (HCSA) and Ministry of Health (MOH) guidelines. This keeps you and your clinic free from any implications. Do not make promises you are not sure you can keep.
Always come from a place of advising the patient while ensuring them that the doctor will be able to give them a better understanding of their condition and treatment. If you find yourself unsure, redirect the call to either a senior member of staff or the appropriate doctor.
You can refer to this list for the complete list of HCSA and MOH guidelines.
The member of staff in charge of handling incoming calls must be able to speak clearly and slowly enough for patients to comprehend. This means that they should maintain a comfortable volume and tone. Both of these factors also serve to keep patients calm despite any discomfort they may be experiencing.
Remember to pause to listen and process what the patient is telling you before responding with the recommended course of action, be it an appointment or a transfer. Additionally, do not be afraid to ask for clarification if you are unsure. As mentioned, this goes a long way toward preventing any miscommunications in the future.
While it is important to pause and process any information that a patient is giving you, long pauses over the phone can be uncomfortable and leave the patient feeling uncertain at times. To avoid this issue, explain any pauses you may be taking. Let the patient know what you are doing, whether this is to confirm an appointment or check with another member of staff.
Alternatively, you may let the patient know that you will be putting them on hold momentarily as you confirm a piece of information or an appointment. Doing this ensures that the patient feels heard and understood. They are also more likely to feel that they are in capable hands when speaking to you if you give them an explanation where needed.
Lastly, never make the patient wait on the line for long periods of time. If the waiting time exceeds 3 to 5 minutes, it is advisable to ask the patient for a number where you can make a return call to offer them all the information they need. Agree in advance when such a return of the call can be made.
If a follow-up appointment or call is required, ensure that this is scheduled before the call is over. The member of staff handling the phone should have in-depth knowledge of the doctors’ schedules, existing appointments with other patients, and availability.
By promptly scheduling a follow-up appointment, the patient not only feels like their care is kept a priority, but there is also no loss in continuity, which is an essential factor in keeping your patients happy, healthy, and loyal to your clinic.
Phone calls are often the first point of contact between a patient and your clinic, so it is essential that staff managing the phone lines are informed of the importance of proper phone etiquette.
Introductions are essential to remove any confusion. Pay attention to your tone and the words used when speaking to patients. Keep things light and straightforward while informing them that a doctor will be able to provide more clarity during their visit.
Pause where needed, but always inform the patient of the reason for your pause. Lastly, do not forget to schedule a callback or a follow-up appointment. This shows your patients that you are on the ball with their care and needs.