Tips for the front desk team – handling clinical conversations
Often the team who are non-clinical feel inadequate at handling new patient phone calls as they do not have a clinical background. They long to be like the ex-nurse who can talk at length clinically to new patients.
Talking clinically on the phone to patients is a huge problem in practice. The front desk is a non-clinical area and the team should not be talking to patients clinically.
I have completed many mystery calls to practices in the last 9 years and the ones that worry me the most are the ones where clinical questions are answered with a huge amount of clinical detail, often it is off putting and scary.
What I will say is that if you have a clinical background it is very hard to change the way that you communicate. After all you have spent years listening to clinical language!
My tips for practices are:
- Remind yourselves that the front desk is non clinical at all times
- With new patients they aren’t calling to find out details, they have a concern, a problem that has most likely affected them for months if not years. They would like to know if you can help them.
- Find out the new patients motivating factor for calling – why now
- Whenever you are asked a clinical question make sure you make a clear recommendation to the patient. The one and only appointment that a team member can recommend is an assessment with the dentist so use that language as much as possible, here is an example
“Mr/ Mrs X that is a good question but it is a clinical one, I would recommend that book an assessment with a dentist as they are the only ones who can really answer the clinical questions that you have, would you like to know more about that appointment?”
Finally here is a tip for handling treatment plans and clinical questions at the desk with a patient in front of you:
- If you are not sure do not answer the questions! Consent processes should take place in a private room and by someone who has the knowledge to answer the questions. If in doubt rebook with the dentist for the dentist to answer the questions so that they can be documented.