Converting Emergencies: Give the Gift of Comprehensive Exams
This time of year, they are everywhere. No I’m not talking about patients, unfortunately. I’m talking about advertisements. Turn on the television or the radio. Open a newspaper or a magazine. Visit a few online sites. Wherever there are consumers, there are ads for products. And this year, retailers are pulling out all the stops to get recession-weary consumers to splurge a little. We’re flooded with recommendations that we purchase that new super-size TV at an “unbelievable” price. We must get that cool gadget now because “supplies are limited.” Whatever the item is, right now there is no shortage of so-called “must haves” in the marketplace and so-called “great deals” to get consumers to buy them.
For most of us with a modicum of restraint, many of these blaring messages are simply relegated to background noise. They are snippets of information that we quickly cast off or never even see because we’re not ready to consider them or are simply not interested. But when the time comes and we begin to consider a purchase, then we start to open ourselves up to the messages around us. We pause to consider the appliance promotions. We might click the link on that cool new gadget that pops up on the web page. We want to find that unique gift for someone special. It is then that we are open to learning more.
Such is the case when the emergency patient sits in your chair. Up until this moment, that person may not have been interested in what you have to offer. However, their current situation has prompted them to consider not only immediate treatment, but quite possibly comprehensive care as well. Yet dental teams miss this opportunity time and again. According to the industry standard, 80% of all emergency patients should be converted to comprehensive exams. If your percentage is lower, it’s time to develop a plan to maximize one of the best practice growth opportunities you have, starting with team attitudes.
Sadly, emergency appointments are viewed as negative and potentially problematic by both the patient and the staff. Consequently, practices commonly send the wrong message to these patients. The person is squeezed into the schedule. Although it’s not necessarily intentional, the emergency patient is frequently viewed as an annoyance and an interruption to the day, rather than an opportunity.
When the emergency patient calls your office, what’s the reaction? Irritation? Frustration? Increased stress? Depends on the time and the day? Here’s what happens in many offices. The scheduling coordinator takes the call and scans the already full schedule. With a labored sigh, she tells the patient it’s going to be very difficult for the practice to work them in, but they will. Oh, and doctor expects payment upfront. Within the first 60 seconds of contact with that emergency patient, your practice is laying the groundwork for conversion to comprehensive exam …or not.No matter what the circumstances - full schedule, stressful situations, etc, emergency patients must be treated with compassion and understanding. Each day the dental team should identify where emergency patients are to be placed in the schedule. This ensures that there are no surprises for the clinical staff, the scheduling coordinator knows exactly where emergencies are to be placed, and these patients can be happily welcomed.
Next, increase awareness among your team. Business staff, who tend to be more task oriented and are much more comfortable when the day runs according to a specific plan and schedule, occasionally need to be reminded that emergency patients are likely to require more empathy and concern than they may typically convey in their day-to-day patient communication. The emergency patient should feel that your practice is one that is understanding and helpful - not punitive.
Listen to how the emergency patient calls are handled. Are these conversations warm and welcoming? How would you feel if you were an emergency patient calling your office? Would you be glad you chose this practice, or would you feel that the practice’s primary concern is the payment rather than the patient?
I recommend dental teams develop phone scripts to help them effectively communicate with emergency patients from the very first word. The script provides a general guide to assist all staff, no matter who picks up the phone, in gathering necessary information, conveying essential details, and continuously expressing a helpful and caring tone and attitude throughout the exchange.
Next week, creating the very best emergency patient experience.
Want more of me? Click here to visit my blog, The Lighter Side, for more Dental Practice Management info.
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