Practice receptionists need to troubleshoot with patients on the phone

The receptionist answering the phone at your practice should help patients to navigate through the complexities of working with your office, from prescription refills to insurance coverage to scheduling patient visits.

But if the receptionist fails to offer alternatives to patients' requested appointment times or can't answer their insurance questions, the burden will sit squarely on your patients’ shoulders. And that’s not the best way to build loyalty among the patients you serve, according to a recent study that included an analysis of 447 recorded calls from three primary-care practices in England.

Patients often had to push to confirm appointments or to seek alternatives other than those offered by the receptionist answering the phone, the study found. Worse still, some receptionists tried to end calls without finding out if the patients’ needs were met.

This method of studying patients’ real-time interactions with physician practices is even more valuable than surveys or reports conducted after the phone interactions have occurred, according to researchers.

“The strengths of this study are in its analysis of actual, real-time encounters between the patient and the GP receptionist--effectively the ‘shop window’ of the practice,” said Elizabeth Stokoe, Ph.D., professor of social interaction at Loughborough University in the United Kingdom and lead author of the study, in an announcement.

Stepping up training on effective communication strategies with your practice’s receptionist can improve the patient experience and satisfaction, she added. Physicians who want to see good patient satisfaction scores need to ensure that their staff treat patients with good customer service skills. Keep in mind if a receptionist is snappy and fails to help a patient, it's time to get to work on setting the right tone and physicians should not hesitate to take action.

- read the study
- check out the announcement