Phone Etiquette Tips
Medical offices get countless phone calls every day. Because phones are the most frequent mode of communication between patients and staff, how you handle a patient phone call makes a huge difference in your reputation and patient satisfaction.
But when you’re dealing with phones ringing constantly and a long list of patients to call back, you may get overwhelmed by phone etiquette. When too much is happening, you may not be considering the best way to answer the phone in a medical office.
Fortunately, our guide to medical office phone etiquette can help. Check out our tips to learn how to properly answer a telephone call in a medical office.
1. Avoid Medical Jargon
Medical jargon may be part of your everyday vocabulary behind the scenes, but it will go over the heads of most patients. This will leave them frustrated and feeling out of touch with your office, so it’s best to avoid jargon altogether. Instead, explain any medical terminology in simple terms so that any patient can easily understand it. Your patients will appreciate your efforts to consider their perspective.
2. Identify Your Clinic Quickly
Whether you’re taking an inbound call or making an outbound call, it’s important to identify the name of your clinic quickly. Patients may be making a slew of phone calls to a list of medical offices, so they may sometimes forget which one they’re calling. And if they’re on the receiving end of the phone call, they may be suspicious or confused until you properly identify your clinic and explain the reason for your call.
3. Follow HIPAA Procedures
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires medical offices to follow certain protocols when handling phone calls. Following these protocols will ensure you stay compliant and avoid any legal issues. For example, patients must provide consent before receiving phone calls relating to medical treatment, checkups, appointment reminders, and more. Calls cannot be made for telemarketing purposes, and the office must provide a toll-free number for patients to call back.
4. Explain Any Reason For Pauses
There are many medical office phone scenarios where your front office staff may need to pause during a phone call—to check appointment availability, to locate paperwork, or to transfer the caller to the doctor. No matter the reason for the pause, it’s important to explain to the patient the reason for the silence. Most people are understanding about short wait times, but they cannot see what’s going on and will appreciate the insight.
5. Give an Approximate Call-Back Time
If a pause in the phone call goes on too long, callers may get frustrated and wonder why you’re taking up their time by keeping them on hold. Rather than leaving them waiting, medical office telephone best practices suggest that you call them back when you’re better prepared to resolve their questions. Make sure to give an approximate call-back time for these situations so the patient knows what to expect—and then make sure they’re called back!
6. Medical Office Phone Scenarios
There are numerous reasons people call medical offices. They might want more information about your office and specialty, or to book an appointment. No matter the practice you’re in, these are common examples of medical office phone scenarios, but they’re not the only ones. Insurance companies might call, or other businesses may try to sell medical gear. Regardless of who is on the other end, you should always present yourself with the utmost professionalism. This sets a good precedence from the first moments of a call. How you handle a patient phone call reflects the office as a whole, and making a good first impression is crucial.
There are some general dos and don’ts of telephone etiquette that should be used in any medical office phone scenario. For example, you should always answer the phone within two or three rings. In addition, it is generally considered good form to wait for the caller to hang up first before hanging up yourself. Avoid interrupting the caller, especially if they’re a patient. Instead, show them you’re attentive by asking relevant follow-up questions when possible.
It can be difficult to know how to end a medical phone call. Some office staff members may get themselves stuck in an endless circle of goodbyes and thank-yous, while others may abruptly hang up and leave the caller on the other end. It’s most polite to wait for the caller to hang up first, then hang up immediately after. This communicates that you’re not in too much of a rush to help them if they should have any last-minute questions.
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7. Medical Office Phone Scripts
One way to make sure the people answering calls understand proper phone etiquette is to create scripts for common calls. Knowing in advance what things to say and how to say them can take the pressure off your staff. When they have a script to work from, they no longer have to figure out how to respectfully navigate professional conversations on the fly. Some medical office phone scripts allow room to adapt to the direction of a conversation. Whether you use set scripts or adaptable ones, either route allows you to incorporate proper phone etiquette in every phone call. People judge places based on their experiences, which often starts with the first phone call.
8. Speak Clearly
Phone conversations already have many obstacles to overcome: You can’t see each other or read physical cues, there may be noise in the background, and there may be other distractions that make it difficult to pay attention. For this reason, it’s crucial to speak as clearly as possible during all phone calls. This includes speaking slowly, calmly, and loudly enough for anyone on the other end of the line to hear everything you’re saying.
Managing Your Medical Office Phone Calls
If you need help managing your medical office phone calls, reach out to ROI Call Center Solutions. Our expert agents are trained in medical office phone etiquette and will leave every caller with a positive view of your office. We’ve helped countless offices with phone answering, surveys, appointment setting, and more. Contact us today to learn more about our medical call center services.