Proper welcoming procedures: You have reviewed the schedule prior to your shift and noticed that Mr.Smith is expected at 9:45. At that time, Mr. Smith enters your office. Remember that most new patients are slightly nervous or, if in pain, may be moving slowly. Acknowledge Mr. Smith (and all new patients) using the proper scripts and procedures:
- Walk around to the front of the desk and welcome the patient by introducing yourself and offering your hand. The right hand is extended palm-up, and once the patient places his or her hand in yours, place your left hand on top of the patient's and shake it confidently .
- Direct the patient to have a seat in a specific chair. In some cases, the patient may be more comfortable standing or lying down. Be sensitive; do whatever is necessary to accommodate the patient and take care of his or her immediate needs. Let the patient know you will return with his or her paperwork, or if you have mailed or faxed it to the patient in advance, ask for it.
- If you have a New Patient Advocate, now is the time to have the representative come up to the front desk. It is this person's job to assist the patient with the required paperwork during the first and second visits. That way, the front desk CA can continue serving established patient needs and services and handle the telephones. Introduce the New Patient Advocate to Mr. Smith and let him know that this person will be assisting him during his visit.
Proper presentation and completion of paperwork: If you have a consultation room available, it is best to have the new patient complete the paperwork there; if you're the one CA who does it all, that's not a problem, but bear in mind that there may not be adequate privacy at the front desk. When scheduling the new patient, you determined what the financial category was, so you should have his or her file folder ready to go. The first form that will need to be completed is the history form.
- Place paperwork on a clipboard with a pen that works. The most successful practices offer a pen imprinted with the name and phone number of the office, and invite the patient to take the pen home.
- Never give the patient more than one form at a time. It can be overwhelming and confusing.
- If there is more than one side, be sure to show the patient what needs to be completed and give directions for completion of any complicated history.
- If the patient is in a consultation room, let him or her know you will be back shortly to answer any questions and pick up the form.
- Set your timer for eight minutes; return after that time to answer any questions and to check that the form has been completed properly.
- When reviewing the form, be sure the following information is completed: full name and address, all insurance information and patient signature. Also, double-check the answers to any questions concerning injuries or attorneys.
- As soon as the history form is completed, make a copy of the front side, so that while the patient is having his or her consultation, history and examination, you can enter all information into the computer and prepare ledger cards, file folder labels, etc. At this time, you may also find that you need some additional information before the patient leaves.
- After all the initial paperwork is completed, let the patient know that the doctor will be with him or her shortly. Never say, "The doctor will be with you in just a minute," because the clock starts ticking in the patient's mind immediately. Chances are, the patient will be waiting longer than one minute.
- Prepare the examination sheet, treatment card, consultation forms, and any other necessary information for the doctor. This should take you no more than five minutes, once the patient has completed the paperwork.
- Give the doctor the clipboard with the patient information and required forms.
- Notify the doctor (before he or she sees the patient) regarding any special situations, such as if the patient is only there for a complimentary consultation; if the patient has a coupon or gift certificate; or if the patient has money "issues." This will prevent any embarrassing situations or misunderstandings.
Scheduling the second visit: Never look at the patient and ask when he or she wants to see the doctor again. This is a set-up for failure. Instead, follow these simple steps:
- When the doctor finishes with the patient, the patient should return to the front desk to schedule the next appointment. The doctor must indicate on the routing slip when the patient needs to be seen again. For example, the doctor may indicate on the routing slip that the patient needs to come in tomorrow for a "report of findings" (ROF) and/or treatment.
- Look the patient in the eye and say, "You will need to see the doctor tomorrow." Ask, "Would you prefer morning or afternoon?" Once again, you should have special times set aside for ROF visits.
- If the patient will be viewing a video prior to the ROF, build an extra 10-15 minutes into the next appointment time. It is best not to mention that the patient will be seeing a video. Inform him or her that the appointment is at 9:45, and write 10:00 in the book.
Collecting on the first visit: After scheduling the second visit, you will have to collect the first visit fees. If this is a workers' compensation or personal-injury case, payment may be deferred, but in most other cases, the patient will need to pay at least a portion of the payment. The routing slip will also indicate what services the doctor has performed. For example, let's say the patient is a cash patient, and your office policy dictates that he or she pays in full at the time of service. The doctor indicated that an intermediate examination was performed, that AP/lateral cervical X-rays were taken, and that the patient was given an ice pack to use at home. Proper scripting and body language are important and can make or break the practice (and the bank):
- Make eye contact with the patient.
- Itemize all services and charges. Each service should be explained separately, so that there are no misunderstandings about what the patient received.
- Don't say the word "dollars." Strange as this may sound, I was given that advice 23 years ago, and when I asked "Why?" I was told that people know an amount is in dollars, so it is not necessary to say it.
- Ask for payment using a close-ended statement, which gives you the answer that you want. For example, "Will that be check, cash or charge?" That is exactly what we are looking for, versus "How do you want to pay for that?" which is open-ended and has an infinite number of possibilities, including, "I don't want to."
- Nod your head subtly (a neurolinguis-tic programming concept of affirmation) while making the above statement.
Here is what it will sound like: "There was no charge for the consultation today. You had a thorough chiropractic, orthopedic, and neurological exam for $75. The doctor took two X-rays of your neck for $60 and gave you an ice pack to use at home for $10. The total for today is $145. Will that be cash, check or charge?"
Good job! Start off right, and you will utilize your time efficiently and make a professional impression that patients will share with their friends and acquaintances. In addition, you'll plug the holes in your bucket and experience stress-free growth!
Scotts Valley, California
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