Tips for Terrific Telephone Technique

Tips for Terrific Telephone Technique

  1. Internal marketing starts with the initial phone contact with your practice.
  2. Be friendly (as if other patients are listening and watching you; as if your boss is evaluating you and you are very confident in your performance; as if God is watching and you are giving him a good show!)
  3. Develop a style and “sound” that says “I’m on”..a rhythm like an experienced telemarketer …dance with them.
  4. LISTEN to the caller. Be calm and attentive. Don’t talk while they do. Wait your turn. Acknowledge what he has said. In certain situations, repeat back to him what he just said to you. This draws him out and gets more information for you to work with.
  5. Always let the patient know you understand what they want. Don’t spare conversation. Use verbal and emotional “mortar” to strengthen the conversation. Practice this…it is a learned skill.
  6. Be calm, courteous, attentive and fresh. Give the impression that this call is the only one you had answered today. You’ve been sitting around waiting for someone to talk with..
  7. Change words, phrases, sentences occasionally.  Keep your conversation fresh and lively. Remember the patients listening to you from the reception area. You don’t want them to hear you sound like a recording.
  8. Polish your style. Be confident and sure of yourself.  Know the names of important people,.referral docs, nearby physicians, offices, restaraunts, know your own geography, behave like you know what you are doing…beware the airhead stigma.
  9. ALWAYS use good manners, say please and thank- you. Don’t use the hold button frivolously.  Ask permission first and explain why you are having to use it. Be polite to everyone, you never know who you may be talking with.
  10. If you have to deny someone what they want (i.e. to talk to the doctor) be especially polite and gracious. That makes you look  good and professional…think about it.
  11. Take your cues from each caller. Change gears for each one.  Talk with each caller one-on-one.
  12. Address the caller by name when you return to their call and  thank them for holding.
  13. Assume a partnership with caller, have a”let’s figure this out together..” attitude. (The results from this will amaze you!)
  14. Although honesty and candor are to be admired, never say “I don’t know” and leave it at that. Always add “..but I can find out for you” or “but I know who does know..” etc.
  15. Think…use your brains! You are there to serve the patient…do what it takes..That’s how you earn your pay.
  16. Eliminate all the negative phrases you can think of…there is almost always a better, more positive, way to say it..
  17. Follow through all your promises
  18. Treat your co-workers as politely as the callers…don’t have two faces.
  19. Use the patient’s name often.
  20. Use the doctor’s name often.
  21. Get the messages recorded accurately, confirm, don’t assume.
  22. SAY THANK YOU.
  23. Don’t talk down to other people…they may be old, but not stupid.
  24. Pull the chart.
  25. Guard against earshot conversation…interoffice, personal or about other patients.
  26. Guard against excessive laughter…patients will wonder if you are laughing at them or other patients.
  27. Know the doctor’s schedule in your head,,.you never know when the computer will be down and you will need to wing it.
  28. Learn to tap dance so you can entertain the audience on those days that never end.
  29. Be calm…no need to panic..it spreads like the plague.
  30. Use your own best judgment at all times.

Source: Sandy Longstreth Boles


Get Ready for the Boom

Get Ready for the Boom

Eye care professionals: Get ready for the boom!

The age range of today’s baby boomers is associated with two main visual events: onset of presbyopia and the development of cataracts.  The implications for eye care providers are tremendous; the rapid increase in the number of people turning 60 each year will create a parallel increase in demand for all forms of eye surgery and care associated with aging.  The eye care professionals will need to respond.  Manufacturers are already doing their part by developing new products and procedures to help restore vision and minimize or eliminate presbyopia and cataracts.  Tremendous resources are being channeled toward finding solutions for glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and dry eye conditions.

Providers have a lot of work to do in preparation for this influx of patients that will occur during the next 5 to 15 years.  In a nutshell, eye care practices need to:

  • DO MORE WITH LESS (Become more efficient)
  • DO RIGHT THINGS RIGHT (Become more effective)
  • DO THINGS BETTER (Continuous improvement)
  • DO THINGS AS A TEAM (Hire right, cross train, empower people)

 (Adapted from Ka-BOOM, Here They Come: by Shareef Mahdavi; Cataract and Refractive Surgeon Today, Feb. 2005)


Four Things Your Administrator Is Responsible for Doing

Four Things Your Administrator Is Responsible for Doing

GET WORK

Fill pipeline with boulders and rocks.  Keep sand out.

Always be mindful.  Word-of-mouth is number one referral source.

DO WORK

According to best reliable methods and PDCAs.

Get the right people on the bus in the right seat with right training to ensure the right things are being done right.

GET PAID FOR WORK

Reasonably charge for everything we do (without apology or regret).

GROW PROFITS

The result of successfully doing the above.


Does Your Patient Information Need an Overhaul?

Does Your Patient Information Need an Overhaul?

Your practice literature is one of the most important ways you have to present your practice to your market.  Once a year the inventory of patient information materials should be reviewed, updated and streamlined.  This article will give you some tips on making sure that your patient educational materials are working hard for you and enhancing your overall marketing efforts.

Dos and don’ts of practice literature.

STEP ONE: Do an Audit of Your Practice Literature

Spread a copy of every single patient handout you have on your desk or conference table.  Now ask yourself….

1. Does each brochure and booklet carry the practice logo?

2. Does each logo look exactly the same?

3. Is the typeface used for the practice name and address consistent on each piece of patient literature?

4. Does the material look “dated” or is it fresh and lively?

5. Is information contained in the practice brochure current, or has a new physician been added, a new satellite office opened, or a new service been developed since the last printing?

6. Is there a range of literature?

7. Is all patient literature easy to read?  Examine the typeface, the size of type, the contrast between the color of the paper and the color of the print.

8. Is the patient literature geared to specific patient target groups such as children, families,   seniors, etc?

9. Is the patient literature attractively displayed in an area where patients can access it easily?10. Does practice staff have a familiarity with all practice patient literature?

SCORING: If you answered NO to 7 or more questions, you have a lot of work to do to bring your patient educational materials up to par.  If you answered NO to 3 to 6 questions, you should update and freshen your materials to make them more useful as educational and marketing tools.  If you answered NO to fewer than 3 questions, your patient educational materials are in good shape and you can put your marketing effort into other projects.


Ways to Improve Profitability

Ways to Improve Profitability

  1. Charge higher fees
  2. Optimize coding
  3. Adhere to clinical protocols defining standard of care
  4. Increase utilization i.e. see more volume of same patient mix
  5. Improve utilization i.e. see a more “profitable/productive” patient mix
  6. Drop unprofitable services
  7. Drop unprofitable patients
  8. Improve speed and accuracy of billing
  9. Improve speed of collections
  10. Use marketing to target “priority” patients
  11. Invest in new, higher value services
  12. Eliminate duplication of effort and non-essential activity
  13. Adhere to best reliable methods for all critical processes
  14. Be easy to do business with
  15. Speed up/enhance training processes for staff including cross-training
  16. Maximize use of technology
  17. Expand service area via networking
  18. Expand service area via satellite offices

Compiled by Ron Blue


Nine Ways to Improve Patient Billing

Nine Ways to Improve Patient Billing

Consumer research and expert analysis by the Patient-Friendly Billing Task Force (a collection of payers, vendors, and associations that includes the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) outline several steps to attack the billing problems that can delay patient payments. Suggested actions include:

  1. Updating patient packets.  Make sure credit and collection policies are described clearly.  Include a sample patient billing statement.
  2. Reviewing the registration process.  Try to obtain necessary information from patients as they check in or schedule appointments.  Reduce redundant forms.
  3. Informing patients.  Remind patients of their financial obligations and explain the insurance billing process.  Have them sign a “Responsible for Payment” clause.
  4. Involving physicians and staff.  A flow chart describing the Revenue cycle, from collecting a co-payment at the time of service to billing for a deductable or co-insurance amounts, can help physicians and staff understand their roles in the patient flow process.
  5. Giving patients clear billing statements.  Make sure summaries of services are easy to understand.  Avoid abbreviations and medical jargon.  List phone numbers and contact hours.
  6. Including return envelopes only when needed.  Sending return envelopes with statements that only explain a service just confuses patients.
  7. Considering longer billing-office hours.  Inviting patients to call with billing questions during evenings can improve collections and patient satisfactions.
  8. Hiring, training and motivating service-orientated staff.  Make sure employees understand what various forms are for and how to communicate effectively with patients.
  9. Understanding the new rules.  Work with payers and vendors to make sure your billing systems and practices comply with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) regulations.


10 Keys to Increasing Profits in Any Business

10 Keys to Increasing Profits in Any Business

  1. Cut overhead by automating almost everything, accounting, reporting, voicemail, ordering, fulfillment, customer service, and sales.
  2. Cut variable expenses by negotiating with suppliers.  If you’re seeking higher profits, you’ll need your suppliers to reinvent themselves too!  The smart suppliers will be empowered by your request.
  3. Cut variable expenses by redesigning (re-engineering) how work gets done/how the product is produced.  This should be a continual process and second nature to you.
  4. Increase productivity by expecting 50%-100% more from everyone.  (Yes, really. THAT much more.)  And give them the best tools and training needed to produce more, without stress.
  5. Leverage your strengths by extending the product/service line.  If you can easily add supplemental products or customized versions at the same profit margin, your overall profit should increase.
  6. Each quarter, challenge your assumptions about your industry and your company.  Profit is ALWAYS temporary.  What keeps profits increasing long term is staying in touch with an always-changing marketplace/industry.
  7. Experiment with new ideas, new types of products and new processes.  Invest 1% of sales into making boo-boos, radical experiments, intuitively-based decisions, think tank getaways – whatever is beyond the 9 dots.
  8. Have and hire only employees who continually impress you with their initiative and competence.  Let everyone else go.  Increasing profits come from great employees, not average ones.
  9. Turn your customer service department into the R&D department of your company.
  10. ASK your best customers what they want/need from you.


Fifteen Customer Service Facts

Fifteen Customer Service Facts

  1. Dissatisfied customers tell an average of 10 people about their bad experience; 12% tell up to 20 people.
  2. Satisfied customers will tell an average of 5 people about their positive experience.
  3. It costs 5 times more money to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one.
  4. If 20 customers are dissatisfied with your service, 19 won’t tell you.  Fourteen of the 20 will take their business elsewhere.
  5. Up to 90% of dissatisfied customers will not buy from you again, and they won’t tell you why.
  6. Ninety-six percent of dissatisfied customers do not complain of poor service.
  7. Quality of services is one of the few variables that can distinguish a business from its competition.
  8. The first 30 seconds of a phone call or meeting sets the tone for the remainder of the contact.  The last 30 seconds are critical to establishing lasting rapport.
  9. Customers are willing to pay more to receive better service.
  10. Ninety-five percent of dissatisfied customers will become loyal customers again if their complaints are handled well and quickly.
  11. A good sale is good service.
  12. Good service leads to increased sales.
  13. With a 70 percent customer rate (average for most U.S. firms, according to the American Management Association) every $1 million of business in 1990 will grow to more than $4 million by the year 2000.
  14. If you retain 80 percent of your customers, the $1 million will grow to a little over $6 million.
  15. If you can keep 90 percent of your customers, that $1 million will grow to more than 9.5 million.


Things You Must Do to Improve Collections

Things You Must Do to Improve Collections

  1. Be Attentive
    • Look for past due patient balances on superbill and ask patient to pay.
    • Look for computer flags which indicate past collection problems like write – offs, collection agency, NSF checks, etc. Insist on cash payment in advance for these types of patients.
  2. Be Proactive
    • Inform patient what fees are due when scheduling appointment. Example: “Please know the exam fee is $95.00, and is payable at the time of service.”
    • Verify “oddball” insurance before the patient checks out.
    • When scheduling an appointment, always ask, “Will your exam be covered by Medicare, insurance, or some other kind of health plan?”
  3. Be Assertive
    • Always ask for payment, If “no checkbook”, always suggest credit or debit card.
    • If not credit or debit card, give them the superbill and instruct them that “this is your statement…you will not receive another one in the mail,” Give patient an envelope and stamp superbill “PAYABLE NOW”.
    • In the event patient’s insurance company has paid the patient directly, or for whatever reasons has not paid us, the patient will receive a letter stating that it is their responsibility to call the insurance company and resolve the issue. Meanwhile, they are responsible to pay the unpaid balance. If, after receipt of this letter the patient calls, stand firm and keep the “ball in their court”. Remind them that “we have taken every measure we know of, and that it’s best if the patient calls insurance company. Most of the time, insurance company is more cooperative with the patient.”
    • Contact lenses should not be ordered without a down payment of 50%.
    • Contact lenses should be held until patients pay for them in full.
    • Contact lens service agreements will not go into effect until they are paid for in full.
  4. Be Selective
    • If patient has bad credit history, insist on cash in advance or at least at time of service.
  5. Be Knowledgable
    • Use insurance portals as much as possible.
    • Know the basics of Medicare, major insurance companies, and other HMOs.
    • Be familiar with co-payments.
    • Know when we file insurance for the patient and when we don’t, and know how to explain this politely and diplomatically.
    • By being the expert and speaking with confidence, the patient will trust what you say and be more likely to cooperate.
  6. Bill Quickly
    • Get away from 30/60/90 mind set (if patient wants to finance their bill, they can charge it to their credit card.)
    • Since our preference is payment at time of service – any payment thereafter is considered past due.
    • After the 1st past due statement, patients can expect to receive statements every 2-3 weeks.
    • Send patient a statement for unpaid balance immediately after receiving third 3rd payment.
  7. Use Your Own Best Judgement at All Times
    • Balance above “rules” with courtesy and respect.
    • Remember there are always going to be exceptions to the rules and gray areas.
    • Never hesitate to call upon your supervisor if the situation is too awkward or uncomfortable.
    • Do the best you can.


Minimizing the Practice Pain Factors

Minimizing the Practice Pain Factors

by Ron Blue

1. BEING PLACED ON HOLD 

First, always ask the patient, “Do you mind holding?”  Allow them to answer and then, before placing them on hold, reply, “Thank you for helping me” or “Thank you”.

Remember, most patients will not hold longer than 40 seconds, so get back to them as soon as possible.  If it is going to be longer than 40 seconds, offer to take their phone number and call them back as soon as possible.

2. TRANSFERRING A CALL 

When transferring a call, introduce the caller to the person you are transferring them to.  For example, in the case when a caller asks to speak with the insurance department, say

“Mary is our insurance coordinator and she will be more than happy to talk to you about your concern.  Would you like to speak with her? (Wait for response) Then say, “Thank you.”

As in the example above, always ask permission to transfer and thank them after their response. Another example of this would be as follows:

“I would like to transfer you to Mary.  She is our insurance specialist and can better help you.  Would that be o.k.? Wait for response then say “Thank you for helping me out,”

Or

“Mary is our insurance specialist and she will be happy to assist you.  Would you like to speak with her?”  Wait for answer then say “Thank you,”

The above example should soften the transferring process.

3. WAITING A LONG TIME TO SEE THE DOCTOR ON THE DAY OF APPOINTMENT

As in all cases, honesty is the best policy.  Apologize and explain briefly to the patient why there is a delay.  Remember, patients do not want to hear excuses.  Assure them we are doing everything possible to help minimize any additional delays.

An example of a way to soften this “moment of truth” would be as follows…

“Meanwhile, we would like to make you as comfortable as possible, could I offer you some coffee?”

Or

“If the wait is inconvenient, we can arrange another appointment for you at no charge.”

If  it is a Medicare patient, no charge would mean any out-of-pocket expense.

If the patient has waited more than 30 minutes, the patient’s chart should be forwarded to the secretary for an apology letter which will be sent to the patient.

If we are running more than an hour behind and it appears as though we have no hope of catching up, it is suggested that we call patients scheduled later in the day to warn them in advance of the long wait time, giving them the opportunity of coming in a little later or even rescheduling.

Calling ahead when behind may be most beneficial to out-of –town patients or patients who are leaving work to make their appointment.

4. UNFRIENDLY, UNATTENTIVE STAFF

As the patient checks in, the receptionist should make immediate eye contact and greet the patient with a smile and if possible, call the patient by name.  This can be accomplished by familiarizing oneself with the patients due to come in.

As a show of respect for elderly patients, it is recommended that the receptionist stand up when making their greeting.

For established patients, language to the effect that “It’s nice to see you again” adds a soft touch.

At this point, the patient should be informed of what kind of waiting time there is and kindly direct the patient to the coffee.

Finally, ask them to please make themselves comfortable.

When greeting new patients, welcome them to our practice  and thank them for choosing us.

Always keep in mind the three essential elements to a friendly greeting: eye contact, smile and use of patient’s name.

5. PATIENT WISHING TO SPEAK WITH DOCTOR

The important thing to remember when a patient asks to speak to the doctor is that, in most cases, an assistant or surgical coordinator can answer the question as effectively and much quicker.

Use the following example:

“We appreciate that you would like to speak with the doctor, but I really feel comfortable that Jill, our surgical coordinator, can answer that question for you and much faster,”

or

“We appreciate your wanting to ask the doctor and it is important that you get an answer quickly, so I am going to recommend that you speak with Jill, our surgical coordinator.  I am comfortable she can answer the question for you.  If you are not satisfied with her answer, let her know and she will be more than happy to have doctor call you back.”

6. PATIENTS OBJECTING TO OPHTHALMIC/ OPTOMETRIC ASSISTANTS’ INTERVENTION AND TESTING

This concern can be addressed by saying:

“In order for our doctor to see as many patients as possible who needs his attention, many of the routine tests involved in an eye exam are performed by optometric assistants.  All of our ophthalmic assistants have been trained by the doctor and are highly qualified to conduct all the tests the doctor needs for his evaluation of your condition.”

You may also mention:

“It is a teamwork approach to eye care, which assures that everyone is getting the very best of care.”

Impress upon them that we are doing it for them, not to them.

7. PATIENT LEAVING WITHOUT FULLY UNDERSTANDING THEIR PROBLEM

This can be alleviated by asking the patient at the end of the exam, “Are there any questions you have that we haven’t answered?”

Also, when escorting the patient to the payment area, offer them a patient education brochure, appropriate for their diagnosis.  Then say

“Please feel free to take it and read it over.  If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call me.”

Write your name and phone number on pamphlet or give patient your business card.

8. PATIENT OBJECTING TO PAYMENT ON DAY OF SERVICE

This objection can be addressed by saying:

“Well, (Patient’s name), we want you to be comfortable with your arrangement, but we do kindly ask that you pay for your services today, if at all possible.”

If patient voices a problem in paying, mention that we take credit cards, and as a last resort, try to get half the payment.  If all of these fail, then provide patient with a walk out statement and a stamped envelope.  In the case of an established patient, please peruse their ledger for any outstanding balance and evidence of slow-pay.  In either event, bring to the patient’s attention and take a stronger position in obtaining payment that day.