Are you losing potential patients?

Candice H. Managing Phone Calls

My recent interaction with my son’s allergist office shed some light for me on the importance of training your administrative team. Delicate verbiage and the desire to schedule an appointment should be a daily practice for all who answer the phone.  Your administrative team is a reflection of you and how your office operates.

My son recently got bit by a fire ant and since he has a severe allergy to insect/bug bites, he swelled up and developed a rash throughout his neck and face. I called his allergist since that is their specialty and inquired about getting him scheduled. At first, the phone call went great. The receptionist was pleasant, found me an appointment per my schedule guidelines and appointed him. Towards the end of the phone call, she asked about insurance so I gave her the name of my plan, Scott & White PPO.

“We don’t accept that insurance, we can’t see your son.” she tells me.

Excuse me!? were my thoughts, so I ask, “You’re telling me your office won’t see my son because of his insurance?” “We’re not in network with the plan.” she says. “What would the charges be if I wanted to see the doctor out of network?” I ask.

I like the doctor. One: He’s informative, has a good bedside manner and my son felt comfortable with him, so paying for his great care was worth it for me to consider going out of network. She proceeds to tell me that she cannot give me a price and isn’t sure what the doctor will want to do. Two: She’s not trained on a routine/initial visit coding and procedures to provide an “estimate” of any kind to me.  What if it was a potential new patient?

As I am on this call a bit longer, my overall shock of her initial response, “We don’t accept that insurance, we can’t see your son.” persuaded me that this may not be the practice for us., “If you are unable to give me a quote, then is there another doctor that the doctor recommends so that I may contact them to schedule my son?” I am placed on hold and she returns, “We refer all of our Medicaid patients to….” I politely asked her to inactivate my son and let her know we would not be returning. She happily says “Ok” and hangs up the phone.

As a patient who was willing to go out of network, pay the additional charges because I like the doctor and believe he provides a good service, his receptionist ultimately pushed me into make my decision on choosing another allergist. She practically kicked me out.  This is a common issue in the medical/dental industry. What steps are you taking to help your team help you be successful?  Would you be ok with losing a potential patient or new patient based on their insurance policy?  It’s important for your team to know how you want your business to function.  

There are a multitude of ways to handle this particular type of phone call without losing patients.  Approximately 95% of your patients will want an estimate of some kind for your services.  We can certainly quote the standard services such as an office visit, x-ray, shot, that gives the patient an approximate figure to see if it fits their budget.  Once the diagnosis is complete, the doctor will then provide the patient with proposed treatment to treat them.  

Choosing our words carefully and providing patients with information is key to engaging them on the call.  “I am sorry to hear your son is going through this.  Would it be ok if I place you on hold to get specifics for your out of pocket since we are not contracted with your insurance?” or “I understand your son is not doing well. Is it ok if I place you on hold while I get some information to be able to provide you with a quote?” This approach is inviting and getting the information the patient needs and wants in order to make their decision.  

Your administrative team should make every attempt to try and retain your patients and schedule new patients without barriers.  Training your team with the proper verbiage could be your safety net in making sure your schedule is booked and your patients are happy and returning.

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