Tips for training patients to comply with office protocols

January 8, 2014

Do you have patients who are not compliant with your office protocols? Do they skip appointments, forget their paperwork, call the office for routine prescription refills, or pay their bills late? If you have these kinds of patients, it’s time to train them about your office protocols.

 

Keith Borglum, CHBCDo you have patients who are not compliant with your office protocols? Do they skip appointments, forget their paperwork, call the office for routine prescription refills, or pay their bills late? If you have these kinds of patients, it’s time to train them about your office protocols.

In most cases you can greatly increase patient compliance by providing them a guide to your practice. Make it as easy as possible for patients to know the rules, and how to work within your system. In today’s medical environment, your guide needs to be distributed in multiple venues: By phone, in person, printed handouts, websites, and social media.

It starts as early as a patient’s first inquiry to your practice. Your receptionist should be well-trained on screening and welcoming new patients. Patients can hear through the phone whether your receptionist is smiling and nice, or frowning and stressed.

“Welcome to our office please hold” is too frequently their first impression of you. Consider an automated attendant instead, with an option to hear a new patient welcome message or website referral for more information and an option to hold for an operator. If callers must be on hold, they might as well become educated during the process, so use message-on-hold instead of music. Give patients a “what’s in it for me” statement that explains what they can do to receive the best care and service.

New patients should be directed to your website or mailed forms to complete prior to their first visit. This can avoid a considerable delay at reception. Don’t tell patients to come in 15 minutes early for an appointment. Tell them when they need to be there to begin paperwork.  Remind them to bring their insurance card and membership booklet to the visit, and to check the practice website for payment, billing, and insurance information. Some practices tell new patients to bring all prescriptions, vitamins, and supplements bottles too. One family practice I know won’t take new patients on more than 4 prescriptions; the practice is already too full with complex patients, and they want to keep quality high for existing patients. Others won’t do a Complete History and Physical Exam at a first visit, and patients should know to expect that.

Post photos of physicians and staff in the reception area so new patients will recognize the doctor and know to whom to direct questions. Posting a copy of your fee schedule and an Evaluation and Management decision chart often will reduce complaints about fees, as patients see that billing is a highly complex issue, and that fees for visits can differ.

With many patients using smart phones and tablets, it can be advantageous to use a Quick Response (QR) code on educational and other materials, so that patients can download the information right to their devices. Having your website directly linked to their phone can greatly improve communication and compliance. QR codes can be generated for free.

Patients leaving an appointment should receive an office brochure as a reminder of all the basic information: hours, refills, contacts, and emergency procedures. Perfecting your practice guide can yield a smoother, more efficient practice for you, your staff, and your patients. 

 

 

Keith Borglum is a practice management consultant with Professional Management and Consulting, Santa Rosa, California. Send your practice management questions to medec@advanstar.com.

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