Attracting and retaining patients is critical to the growth of a medical practice. Your office staff is more than just the friendly faces behind the front desk. They should be actively participating in the revenue generation for your practice by working to build a lasting relationship with your patients, attracting new patients through telephone interactions, and creating a professional and positive atmosphere during office visits.
For a patient, a doctor’s visit is a business transaction with a twist – and that twist could be fear and worry over a complex medical condition, or the excitement of a new baby or cosmetic procedure. The office staff participates in their overall experience by ensuring that their business transaction is seamless and does not negatively impact their impression of the practice. A positive transaction leads to future transactions and the all important referral business that is generated by word of mouth. Here are 5 specific ways that your office staff can help you accomplish these goals.
Medical etiquette is more than just the patient’s interaction with their doctor, and is felt along every step of the visit, including before their arrival and after the visit.” – Patricia Rossi, nationally acclaimed business etiquette coach
- A clean and well-maintained office environment is critical for patients. If your practice appears unsanitary, or the waiting and exam rooms are in disrepair, patients will take notice. The same goes for your office staff. Appearance sets the tone for your employees as well as for your patients. Whether you opt for uniforms or a professional dress code, make sure that your staff understands that the way they dress carries certain messages to patients and referring physicians. The impression that your office staff makes on patients starts with the very first impression – their professional appearance. A patient that is concerned about the sanitary conditions or has the impression that the office staff is not professional (as communicated by attire) is significantly less likely to return.
- A friendly and professional attitude is critical to developing a relationship with patients. Research shows that etiquette plays a major role in how a patient feels about their office visit, and it’s not just the doctor’s attitude, but the office staff’s as well. Basic courtesies like introducing yourself, making eye contact and asking permission before entering an exam room will show the patient that you respect them and their personal space. An office visit that leaves your patients questioning whether or not the staff cares about the patient can create an atmosphere of distrust. You do not want your patients to think that unprofessional office staff will violate privacy laws or drop the ball on insurance claims.
Excellent customer service when it comes to appointment scheduling and billing and other account questions will create a positive impression for your practice. The office staff must be trained in customer service and related protocols and procedures. Once training is complete, steps must be taken to ensure that the rules set forth are followed. Consistency in customer service is critical to maintaining positive relationships with your patients. Your office staff can also answer and ask the right questions, turning someone on the fence into a patient. When your office staff knows the ins and outs of insurance participation they are better equipped to provide excellent customer service because they are able to respond to patients.
- No one likes to feel that his or her time is being wasted, and when your office staff is working in an efficient manner it adds to the overall positive experience. This relates to everything from efficient paperwork and insurance processing for new patients to proper scheduling of appointments to minimize wait time while simultaneously maximizing the doctor’s time with a patient.
Additionally, an efficient office staff can get more done. This requires less staff and gets better results. If you have 5 people that are trying to do too many things, or don’t know what they’re doing, they’re going to be largely inefficient and wasting time.
- Utilize your office staff to create follow-up appointments that may otherwise slip a patient’s mind or that a patient may be on the fence about. It is much easier to follow-up with an existing patient than it is to find a new patient, and a well-trained office staff will have the time and capability to do it. A follow up call or letter should also occur after the appointment. Check in with the patient within 48 hours and thank them for their visit. This is part of building a meaningful relationship with the patient by showing them that you value their business and care about their health and well-being. A timely follow-up is especially critical if a patient was promised a phone call from the physician or he or she is waiting for test results. Following up also includes following through with promises made during a visit. Prescription requests should be handled in a timely manner and documentation should be faxed or emailed within the indicated timeframe. Lastly, a policy must be in place regarding response time for email and voicemails. Delaying a call back or email reply can result in a missed opportunity for patient revenue. If a patient fails to get a response they will move on to the next provider on their list.
Your office staff can and should be helping your practice to grow through revenue generation. Take their role into consideration when developing your overall marketing strategy, and ensure that they understand how and where they fit in.
At Points Group we are experts in helping your medical healthcare practice develop a business plan and a strategy for growth. If you’d like more information on what we do and our history of success, contact us.