What Are the Challenges for a Medical Receptionist?
There are many challenges that medical receptionists face, including many incoming calls, angry patients, and long waiting times. They also need to address complaints and show empathy towards patients’ feelings.
It might appear daunting, but there are several easy solutions that you can use. This article will explain the challenges medical receptionists face and how you can overcome them.
Managing a high volume of phone calls
Medical receptionists have to deal with a huge number of incoming calls. This means you would spend much of your day talking to different patients. Therefore, you will be a major determinant of patient satisfaction.
These are mostly patient calls to schedule or cancel appointments. To maintain medical practice patient satisfaction, medical receptionists must be familiar with the appropriate phone etiquette.
For instance, they must ask for permission to put patients on hold, estimate the hold time, indicate that you are listening by using short phrases like “I see,” announce them when you transfer the call, and never use slang.
If you don’t practice phone etiquette, the patient does not feel great about it. Your job is to make their life easier by assisting them in using your services.
Tips on how to handle it
Handling such a large call volume throughout the day can be challenging. And it can even give you sensory overload.
Some medical receptionists might find it easier to have a list of the most frequently asked questions right in front of them. That way, when a customer calls to book an appointment or ask questions, you don’t have to think too hard before answering them.
This will alleviate some of the pressure of dealing with customers all day. That’s because it will make it more mechanical and smooth.
Dealing with frustrated patients
Dealing with unhappy patients is one of the worst parts of a medical receptionist’s job. These are common challenges, but understanding the patient’s situation is the key to overcoming them.
One of the responsibilities of medical receptionists is handling frustrated patients. And when a patient starts lashing out, it can get ugly quickly.
They might start shouting at you. Or in extreme cases, they might even start vandalizing the property of your institute. This can be disastrous for your team. Not only do incidents like these garner negative publicity, but they also deter future patients from availing of your service.
Some solutions for the problem
Usually, when a person is aggravated, they tend to overreact. That’s what results in destructive behaviour by the patient. Therefore, in these cases, it’s best to stay calm.
If you remain calm and maintain professionalism, the patient will soon realize they are overreacting. And they will tend to calm down.
However, an important aspect of remaining calm is making the patient feel heard. That’s a skill that’s crucial for front desk staff. When you make the patient feel heard while remaining calm, they feel like their problems are being addressed.
Validate their feelings because they would usually just be angry at all the red tape. There might be long waits, or you might need detailed insurance information before you can get the patient’s help.
All this time, they will be in pain. So, it’s natural for them to feel angry and frustrated. But if you validate their feelings and make them feel heard, it will help. While you remain calm, the patient will understand that you can’t do anything about the red tape. This will help them cool down and diffuse the situation.
However, it’s best to call security and a senior doctor if nothing works. They will be able to handle the rest. You need to ensure the safety of all your other clients too. And sometimes, that requires extreme measures.
Managing patient emotions
Building upon the previous point, some medical receptionists might face challenges managing the patient’s emotions. That’s when you might find understanding the patient’s feelings difficult.
You need to understand the patient’s emotions well to be able to help them efficiently. It’s one of the common challenges that medical front desk staff faces.
You need to empathise with your patient and understand what they want. Sometimes, they may be distraught, and they might not even be in front of you for you to console them. For instance, if they are speaking to you over the phone.
Increase your emotional intelligence
The best way to better understand the patient’s feelings is to increase emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is our ability to understand and regulate emotions. It applies both to others and to ourselves.
Emotional intelligence refers to our emotional quotient (EQ). It’s similar to our IQ but calculates our ability to understand and regulate feelings.
People who have low EQ tend to be more overwhelmed by their emotions. They also get upset faster and feel misunderstood. As you can see, these are all the problems we discussed earlier with patients acting out.
But, if the front desk staff has a low EQ, they would behave the same way as the patients. That will reduce productivity, and the quality of your service will decrease.
Therefore, you need to improve your EQ. A higher EQ will help you identify emotions and understand their links to behaviour. This will help you understand why your patients might be acting out due to long hold times for doctors.
There are some great resources online that can help you improve your EQ. For instance, check out this article by Harvard on improving your EQ.
High waiting times
Long wait times obstruct patient flow and cause many problems for the front desk staff. Patients tend to get frustrated when waiting long before being offered help. Managing these long times can be challenging.
The office staff is expected to entertain the patient’s needs during the time that they are waiting. However, there’s little you can do to ease their pain. After all, they require medical care and aren’t getting it.
Understanding the core of this problem is important for solving it. It would be best if you were empathetic toward your patients. They are sitting in a public place. Their seats might be uncomfortable, or the air conditioning might not be great.
Or, they could be in a lot of physical pain. Therefore, you must understand why or when your patients might get frustrated due to the wait times.
Keep your patients entertained
The easiest way to work around long wait times is to have something for the patients to do while waiting. You can get them some puzzles or games that they can play. You can also put some books or a TV in the waiting room.
Usually, these tricks work for pediatricians because their patients are children. However, adults in that position might be less amused by a Where’s Waldo book.
To help adults feel entertained, you can offer them magazines or put the TV on a channel that’s usually very popular. This can be news or sports. That way, you can address your patient’s need for entertainment.
This will take their mind off the fact that they might have to wait hours to receive medical care. And since they are distracted, they are less likely to fight with the office staff.
Another great way to offset the built-up frustration is through complementary hot beverages. This is something that only the more high-end office will be able to afford, but it’s one of the best solutions.
As the front office staff, you will need to solve different complaints put forth by the customers. It can be challenging to remember everything and work on it.
Imagine that several customers are coming up to you to register their complaints. What will you do? Will you register complaints or work on providing them with solutions?
That’s why you must figure out how to streamline the operation.
Create a patient portal
A portal on your website can handle customers’ complaints. If anyone is bothered by something at your office, they can just easily report it on your website.
That way, all the complaints will get to you, and you won’t need to listen to angry patients. You can also go a step further and order the complaints by priority. These would range from high-priority complaints to low-priority ones.
Handling multi-channel inquiries
Sometimes, patients would reach out to the front office staff through various channels. For instance, they might call you, send an email, or drop a text.
They can even reach out to you through several different social platforms. For instance, they can contact you via Facebook, Twitter, or WhatsApp.
Therefore, responding to every customer through the different platforms can be inefficient. It would be best if you had a localized solution.
Get a customer service app
A customer service application allows omnichannel integration. That means your customers’ queries from multiple platforms appear on a single dashboard.
Over there, you can respond to all of them through one tool. That saves a significant amount of time and enhances the efficiency of the front office staff.
Difficulty in scheduling medical appointments
Scheduling an appointment can be one of the biggest challenges. You must find the right time slot for the patient and the doctor. Additionally, it needs to be as soon as possible.
Now, this sounds like a classic mathematical problem that coding can solve. However, you might not be well-versed in that area.
Use a scheduling app
An easy solution is to use appointment scheduling software. It will automatically track the days doctors are available for other patients.
And you can easily address patients’ concerns about late appointments by showing the calendar for when the doctors are available.
Takeaway: Being the front desk staff isn’t easy
From angry customers to overlapping appointments, there are many things that medical receptionists need to watch out for.
However, many customer service applications can make your life easier. It is also a good idea to improve your emotional intelligence. It helps you maintain your composure and regulate others’ feelings better.
But these tips won’t be enough if you want to become a professional medical receptionist. You will need professional certifications, such as the ones offered by these medical receptionist courses.
These courses will train you for the life of a medical receptionist. They will equip you with all the skills you need to excel at your job.
Lorea is a content marketing writer who simplifies complex topics for brands. With a knack for research, she creates engaging articles on various subjects. She enjoys reading, hiking, and trying new foods in her free time.