NOW THIS is a thorny subject for patients, medical secretaries and consultants alike. Here’s two common scenarios: ‘The patient says she couldn’t get through’. ‘She was a new patient. That’s like gold dust. We need to answer every call’. ‘I just received a complaint from a GP who couldn’t get through to refer a patient’.
How do we answer every call? Is that even possible? How many calls are being answered at your practice today? 50%? 90%? Can you measure this?
TOP TIPS TO AVOID MISSING A CALL
Own your phone number. Ensure you have a number for life
Measure it to manage it – Monthly reviews of our performance will ensure we continue to focus on this key element of practice management
Call audit – Address the reasons why patients are calling and look at ways to reduce the calls that are less productive
Technology solutions – Investigate the ways in which your phone system can support the process
Voicemail – Ensure messages are returned promptly
Appointment reminders – Ensure we include the address and details of how to find us. Ask patients to email to confirm not call
Online booking should be embraced by all
Call-answering bureaux/call centres – Can be used as a back-up option
Patient calls are vital and high priority. It is important to have a culture that treats them as such
I will leave you with the famous words of Blondie: ‘Don’t leave me hanging on the telephone.’
How many times have your patients said that to you? Does it make you grind your teeth in frustration? We share your pain.
Please leave a message
We have regularly heard of patients being answered by voicemail saying that the practice is very busy. Please leave a message and we will call you back by the end of the day.
Managing your incoming calls is a painful but critical aspect of the service your private practice provides but how can you ensure every call is answered in a cost-effective way?
Strategy for communication
We suggest you develop a strategy for communicating with your patients. Let’s start by considering all the ways in which a patient can communicate with you. These include the following:
Online booking systems
Recent research shows that younger patients would prefer the option to book their appointments online or via email. We should all embrace this, as managing email is far easier and more cost effective than managing telephone calls.
Let’s also review the reasons patients are calling you. How many patients call to check your address as they travel to their appointment? You could take actions to reduce this in several ways. The day before, send text messages confirming the appointment and include the full practice address. Also, make sure your address is clearly listed on the home page of your website and not hidden away at the bottom of a contact sheet.
A patient guide, given to all new patients and perhaps even all existing patients, could set out the ways in which patients can contact you. Questions about their treatment plan and medication might be better handled via email so that you can reply in your own time rather than by telephone call.
If patients regularly call about medication and treatments, then perhaps you could prepare a “Frequently Asked Questions” leaflet that can be given to your patients with their prescription.
If you would like some assistance to manage your calls, or any other aspect of your practice, then please get in touch with the team at Designated Medical who would be happy to help.