The initial phone call by a potential patient is an excellent opportunity for the front office team to develop a warm relationship with the caller and “pre-sell” your services and amenities. Assign a designated person to handle the majority of initial calls. If the designated team member is not on the phone, the call is transferred immediately. All front office team members should back up the primary person and should be fully trained for this important task. The first choice is the Treatment Coordinator (TC). However, you may find that the TC is occupied in initial exams and rechecks, and realistically does not have the opportunity to take the call.
Nancy’s Note: If you employ two or more front desk personnel, I suggest that one team member handle incoming patients and the new patient phone call and the other team member handle the patient checkout. Some practices involve the clinical team in all or most of the checkout process, allowing the front office team to focus on welcoming the patients, asking patients for referrals and other participation, as well as handling the new patient phone call.
- Customize the new patient phone script. Convert the phone script into an interview sheet that is completed while the patient is on the phone. Information in addition to the name and appointment time is transferred to the computer at a later time. The completed scripts are given to the TC daily and reviewed for accuracy.
- Important aspects of the script include identifying yourself by name and using the patient/parent’s name. You would also ask these key questions:
“How did you hear about us?” Track the source of the new patient phone call to determine the return on investment on your marketing initiatives.
“Is there anyone else in your family who would like to be seen?” Encourage the parent to bring any siblings age 7 and older to the initial exam.
“Do you have dental benefits?” Many people know that they have dental benefits but may not be aware that orthodontic benefits may be included.
- Promote complimentary services: no-charge for exams, panoramic x-rays, digital photographs, etc.
Confirm that the patient will discuss diagnosis and treatment options, and the treatment coordinator will finalize fees and financial arrangements. Also, confirm that the patient can begin treatment (records) on the day of the initial exam.
- Always establish insurance information and determine the explanation of benefits prior to the initial exam. Do not allow the patient to walk out of the initial exam without complete fee information. If your fee is $5,200 and the benefits are $1,200, the patient is able to look at the $4,000 balance as a starting point to a fee agreement. If the caller is not able to provide insurance information, place the contact information in a designated area for follow up prior to the exam. As a last resort the TC can obtain the information during the reminder call 1-2 days before the exam.
- Many practices ask the main concern of the patient. If you ask the main concern during the initial call use the information when confirming the appointment.
Nancy’s Note: Avoid the following scenario: asking the patient his/her main concern during the initial phone call and at the initial exam by both the treatment coordinator and doctor. Three people have asked the patient his/her concern and nobody seems to be communicating the answer! The parent and patient want to feel heard. In our practice the treatment coordinator asks this question while interviewing the patient in person prior to the doctors’ exam. The treatment coordinator informs the doctor of the main concern and confirms the main concern to the doctor when he is introduced to the patient.
- Establish a “teaser” statement about your doctor/ office. Set your practice apart from the competition in your initial phone call and follow up with professional marketing materials and an office image that reflect your message.
- Establish concern and communicate that the patient has selected the right place to take care of their concern.
- Direct patients to your website.
- Post new patient phone scripts at each applicable phone.