Friday, November 7, 2014

How Would You Rate Your Medical Practice on Answering and Using the Phone?

telephone in the medical practice
The telephone is the lifeline of your practice. It has been a critical component for all businesses, healthcare or otherwise, since the early 1900s when the telephone became a household device. No matter what technology or medium exists today that allows patients to communicate with you and your staff, or how easy it has become for them to learn more about your practice from the Internet, the phone still sits front and center as the key ingredient in their doctor selection process.

Some would argue that the Information Age has simplified the decision-making process for all of us; an equally valid argument can be made that instead, it has drastically complicated things! With so much information available on the web with the click of a button, and an overabundance of medical experts who now have quicker access to patient’s eyeballs and ear drums, people in search of medical advice constantly find themselves having to determine which expert is right and which one is wrong. This only makes your job as a healthcare provider more difficult.

Can patients really make sound decisions about their own treatment without talking to someone first? Chances are, they can’t. In fact, the phone still serves as the safe haven for patients because it allows them to confirm or refute what they read or hear somewhere else, and the conversations they have over the phone evoke the secure feelings they need to take action and book appointments with doctors.

Furthermore, dialing the phone has become so much easier with the evolution of the smart phone. Years ago, when you wanted to call someone, you had to find the contact information, write down the number, and go to a telephone and dial it. Not anymore! The smart phone allows you to find a doctor online and press a blue link—and voila, you are connected to their office. So this combination of the patient’s need to have questions answered before booking an appointment, and the ease of making phone calls, has caused the number of phone calls placed to a doctor’s office to increase in recent years.

It is for this reason that the doctors, office managers, practice management coaches or consultants, and anyone else involved with your practice need to focus on the phones as the most critical piece of equipment you have in your practice today. Yes, that the small plastic contraption sitting at your front desk, the machine that can be bought at Radio Shack for less than $20, has more value to patients than any other machine in your facility. Why? Because without the proper handling of the first telephone interaction with your potential patients, they may never set foot in your office to receive treatment from the machines that cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Wouldn’t it be an absolute shame if someone who desperately needed your care decided to make the wrong healthcare decision because of the way phones were answered—or even worse, went somewhere else because your voicemail box came on? That might be happening in your practice today and you may not be aware of it. Or maybe you are aware of it, and that is the reason you are reading this book. If so, I congratulate you on taking the first step to fix this problem, because it’s a crucial one. If you are losing patients, your practice is losing money!

Think about it this way: The last time you wanted to try a new restaurant, did you read any reviews before making a reservation? My guess is that you did. Don’t you think your patients are doing the same thing before they visit your practice? Of course they are.

The reviews are easy to find on Google, Yelp, Healthgrades, RateMDs, and countless other websites that offer the information. The days of sweeping a bad phone interaction under the rug are over. Today’s angry patients immediately take to the web to let out their frustrations and inform others about how they felt they were treated by your practice.

Whether you think it’s fair or not is irrelevant. If it happens to you, it will hurt your reputation and cause people to think twice about booking an appointment with your practice. These problems can be fixed, but it takes a conscious effort from everyone in your practice to make it happen. It won’t be easy. You need a comprehensive strategy, as well as time and effort to master. You will also need to put together a detailed plan for execution, a process for implementation, and a way to perform quality control. So the stakes are high, and there’s no time like the present to take the steps necessary to avoid bad phone interactions.

There's a brand new book by Spencer Peller called "Own the Phone: Proven Ways of Handling Calls, Securing Appointments, and Growing Your Healthcare Practice" published by Greenbranch Publishing. It provides a comprehensive phone-handling skills for everyone in your office and has been fine-tuned for the healthcare profession. Included in the book are phone-handling strategies, best practices, scripts, tutorials, worksheets, cheat sheets, and so much more to help you and your staff master the art of answering the phone and provide excellent customer care. It's a highly recommended read.

If you enjoy reading the blog entries in "Solving Problems in the Medical Practice" you may want to check out all the great products at Greenbranch Publishing.