Medical Receptionist Phone Etiquette 101

Medical Receptionist Phone Etiquette 101

Answering the phone isn’t something we put much thought into. It should be as simple as helping a patient set an appointment or answer a common question. But a phone call is often the first interaction a patient can have with your practice, and it’s crucial to have proper phone etiquette. As patient communication experts, MedCall Plus has identified the top 5  phone etiquette rules that can significantly impact your patient experience.

1.Speak Clearly

When talking to patients over the phone, they must understand what you say. Several things can make it difficult for callers to hear or know what you are saying; here are some common areas to improve if your callers often say, “What?”.

    • Pronounce words clearly and concisely

    • Take a rest between calls if possible

    • Avoid coughing, eating, or drinking while on the call

    • Use the right technology and avoid old equipment that distorts your voice.

2. Don’t Multitask

You might think you can multitask, but studies show that quality suffers when you focus on multiple tasks. According to a study by the Cleveland Clinic[1], we are less productive when trying to multitask. We’re wired to be mono-taskers, meaning that our brains can only focus on one task at a time, according to Neuropsychologist Cynthia Kubu, PhD. “When we think we’re multitasking, most often we aren’t really doing two things at once. But instead, we’re doing individual actions in rapid succession, or task-switching,” she says. So stop trying to finish that email or send the invoice when the phone rings. Set down your work and devote your attention to the task at hand. Give your patients full attention on the phone because they can tell the difference!

3. Match the Caller’s Pace

Your medical receptionist is familiar with your system, and they may follow the script, so it’s easy to go faster than they realize. Matching a caller’s style is a great way to ensure you’re delivering information in a manner that is comfortable for the caller. Even if you are busy and trying to decrease call times, rushing the patient can irritate them and make them feel uncared for. Matching pace also applies the opposite way; if a caller is fast-paced and seems in a hurry, try to go your fastest. They may be trying to fit this call between meetings or on lunch break.

4. Take Digital Notes

Refrain from relying on your memory to remember everything callers say. While taking notes in your EHR or e-file system seems obvious in our digital age, it’s easy to scribble something on a sticky note. Writing down messages on paper can easily get lost, so invest in a system that tracks calls and is easy to take notes with. Tagging notes to a specific call also prevents getting messages mixed up. If setting up a whole new system seems daunting, consider partnering with an answering service that can guide you through it.

5. Answer Within Three Rings

You want to answer each call quickly, but answering on the first ring can be challenging. Aim never to let the phone ring more than three times. Answering quickly ensures that callers don’t hang up before you get to them and give an excellent first impression. The longer a phone rings, the more likely they will not be in a good mood, and now you have to calm a disgruntled caller and hope they still want your service.

Making sure that your practice is using good phone etiquette can be simple. Work with the office manager to set up a training course to review these simple principles. Or you may need a more in-depth look at your internal call center operation. In that case, MedCall Plus consults medical practices and hospitals to find gaps in patient communication and administer training.


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