Training Medical Practice Staff to Deal with Angry Patients

June 28, 2014

If you've ever heard a staff member try to calm an angry patient down on a phone call, you have a great opportunity for training.

A few weeks ago, a billing staff member was subjected to a particularly difficult and demanding patient phone call. The patient took 40 minutes of her time insisting that billing was done incorrectly, which it was not, and was just really very rude. I decided subsequent calls would never last this long, and that I needed to provide the staff some autonomy and training from a call-center standpoint.

I started looking online for some suggestions for training. I found this website helpful.

The five of us spent a lunch hour going through the different situations and personality types, and then performed some role-playing exercises. We laughed a lot, and made it fun. By giving them this training, I enabled them to know when it's OK to end a call with an angry customer, and how to troubleshoot those callers who really wanted help. They all walked away much more confident and happier from this training.

What has come from this has been a really amazing experience and transformation. The staff now feel more valued in their roles. They know they are not just the punching bags in the company, which is typically how billing staff feel; hence, the large turnover. Most often a patient will call and complain from something that happened at the clinic level, and really has nothing to do with the billing department or staff. They've historically always taken the brunt of patient dissatisfaction. Is this fair? Not in my eyes.

Since this training, calls are routed to the appropriate staff, or the patient's frustrations are quelled, leaving a much happier interaction with everyone. We have even implemented a new system of patient callbacks with questions such as, "Were your benefits explained to you on your first visit?" and "Do you have any questions about your bill?"

You've read the Yelp reviews and seen, "Physician was great, front office staff was really helpful, billing was awful." I never want to see that associated with our billing department. It's been a challenge to really identify the "whys" of patient phone calls. But, once identified, you can take steps to stop those types of calls from even being made.

Remember that by empowering your staff, whether billing or front office, the results will make such a big difference in performance and job satisfaction. You can only benefit from providing this type of support. Your staff will thank you!