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Phone Skills: Umm...I don't think we do that here

And other patient intake disasters

If you were to call your medical practice today, how confident are you in the message your staff are telling potential patients and referring physicians?  For starters, how do they greet patients?  Are they smiling when they speak?  Are they speaking in a clear, friendly tone?  Do they identify the practice name and their name?  Can they give clear directions to all of your locations?  Do they know the names and specialties of all physicians in your group?  Do they know your story?  Who founded your practice and in what year?  Why and how?  Medicine is a business of passion: stories connect human hearts.  What exactly do your physicians do?  What is a cardiologist anyway?  What's the difference between a colorectal surgeon and a general surgeon?  Why is Dr. X in your group the perfect choice for a certain surgery or procedure?  What is your staff saying that can give patients and referring physicians peace of mind that they have absolutely made the best decision?
I find that in most practices, the front line staff (responsible for answering the phones and greeting patients) tends to be the least tenured and the least trained, yet they control more revenue than anyone else in the practice.  In a recent review of one medical practice, we determined that staff messaging was responsible for turning away 12.8% of patients, or $398,927 in lost annual revenue.  
Upon reviewing the staggering figure, the partners were furious and wanted to know exactly how many patients each staff member "chased away" so that they could fire the "responsible" parties.  This is a common solution in medical practices, but the wrong one.  If you are losing patients over the phone or at the front desk, consider the following: Have things changed as the practice has grown?  Perhaps you feel like your old "original" staff were more dedicated.  They always had your back and knew what was going on, didn't they?  This is likely because you spent a lot of time with them; they not only knew your story, they were part of its development.  Your new staff don't know your story unless you tell them.  And if you don't tell them, the best they can do is piece it together as they go.
So what should you do?  I like to start by working with practices to develop a "fact sheet" of sorts that can be used as the basis for the story you tell on your website, in your marketing materials, and via the mouths of your myriad employees.  Your staff are walking, talking billboards for you and your medical practice.  Create a story that comes to life for them and use it to define a positive culture.  As a practice grows, it is important that every new employee be given locations, physician bios, internal contacts, external vendor lists, and a list of frequently asked questions, along with the expectation to memorize it.  For certain staff, having scripts to follow and practice with is key.  It is also important that managers set an example of knowledge-sharing and ownership of patient questions until they are fully resolved.  
Frontline staff can make or break your medical practice  Give them the training and the tools they need to make it exceptional.  
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