Rolling out the red carpet

May 22, 2009

If you're looking to increase your patient base, there's a lot you and your staff can do to make first-timers feel welcome and ease their integration into your practice.

Key Points

THE CRUCIAL FIRST CALL

When patients make that all-important first call, your scheduler should be prepared to explain what is special about the practice. Susan Keane Baker, a practice management expert in New Canaan, Connecticut, and author of Managing Patient Expectations: The Art of Finding and Keeping Loyal Patients, recommends that schedulers use the phrase "which means that" to illustrate how various features of your practice benefit patients. A few examples:

In addition to being advised what to bring, first-time patients should be informed why various items are necessary, says Hertz, who is based in Alexandria, Louisiana. "Many people get annoyed when the appointment clerk asks 'What insurance do you have?' Patients need to understand that a practice asks this question so that it can verify benefits and coverage prior to the patient's visit, thus sparing the patient-and the practice-aggravation down the road."

Hertz and Baker recommend providing new patients with a checklist of items they should bring along. In addition to their insurance card, the list might include:

Put the checklist on a "new patients" section of your website, along with a patient history form, a document authorizing the practice to obtain prior medical records, and other forms that the patients can download and fill out prior to the appointment. A good website will also contain directions to the practice and a photo of the building, so that patients are less likely to drive past.

Ask your appointment clerk to provide the practice's web address and specific instructions on how to find and download needed forms. If you don't have a website or the new patient doesn't have access to the internet, mail the forms in advance or instruct the patient to arrive a few minutes before her scheduled appointment to take care of paperwork.