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When Handling Phone Inquiries, Less is More

The idea that “time is money” is a principle that most doctors attempt to incorporate into all operational areas of the practice, and rightfully so: finding ways to reduce the amount of time spent in managing patient flow translates into improved production across the board. 

At the same time, practices often fail to recognize, or perhaps ignore, the fact that this same need for time efficiency exists with those individuals who represent your future patients.  To cite one example, during a break in a training session this week I had a discussion with the doctor on the subject of having a two-step conversion process.  I reiterated what I have said here previously: nobody wants to come to your office for two separate meetings if they can avoid it, and insisting on doing things this way when most of one’s competitor’s do not is not a good business practice.

Another area where we see a lack of attention to other people’s time – and the subject of this post – is at the front desk, specifically the way that incoming inquiries for your services are handled.

It is important to remember that conducting business on the phone is, for most people, tedious. Prior to visiting your practice, the interest level of the caller is usually low, and thus the inquiry call is likely to be considered a necessary inconvenience. Under these conditions, it doesn’t take much time to elapse before the person on the other end of the line starts looking at their watch.

In spite of this, many practices treat this opportunity a new patient as if time is unlimited. Some of the call sheets and software programs that I have seen practices use for this purpose would likely take close to an hour to complete in full; one document that some of you use has so many boxes to fill in that the main skill needed by your front desk, and the one frequently utilized, is learning to pick out the important boxes while learning to skip over the rest.

The proper rule of thumb here – and the one we used in designing our call sheet – is simple: what information must be collected now, and what information can be completed later, either online or when the patient visits the office? Beginning with the end in mind reduces the amount of time needed to prepare for the visit and respects the need for efficiency expected by the caller.

Additionally, by eliminating mundane, unnecessary questions, your front desk staff will gain time that can be used to ask the questions that affect your conversion rate: obtaining insurance information, identifying all parties to the treatment decision, and most importantly, inviting those other individuals to the consultation.

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