Revenue Cycle

TIP: Handle patient calls effectively

Patient Access Weekly Advisor, May 14, 2008

T.T. “Mitch” Mitchell, president of T.T. Mitchell Consulting, developed these five steps to help staff quickly and effectively handle patient calls:

  1. Take a moment to read the account information. When staff members get the name and account number of a claim, they should determine whether there are any extenuating emotional circumstances. Many healthcare facilities have a place in the system where they can note if a patient died. If you do not have such a place, look into making this information easily available to your collectors.
  2. Listen fully to what customers say before trying to answer their questions. Most people try to answer what they perceive the question to be without fully understanding the issue. Sometimes what stands out at first isn’t the problem.
  3. If appropriate, express condolences before attempting to solve a patient’s issues. All healthcare personnel—no matter what positions they hold—should always try to put themselves in the shoes of the patient or family member. Almost everyone appreciates a little compassion during times of distress.
  4. Be understanding, but never take abuse. Although emotions can run high, we all play a part in setting the standard for how we talk with our customers. We deserve that same standard of courtesy back—within reason—depending on circumstances. When we don’t receive courtesy, we’re allowed to spare ourselves the abuse. If you get flak from a customer and give it back, that’s unacceptable. But if your staff can’t get the customer to calm down, they should pass the issue to a supervisor or leave the conversation.
  5. Don’t rush through a conversation; be patient until the issue is resolved. Trying to get through a call to meet time standards usually means that someone gets the short end of the stick, leaving everyone dissatisfied. Customers may not always call for our benefit, but the information they impart often helps to get claims paid.

Note: This tip was featured in HCPro’s Revenue Cycle Management: A Best Practices Toolkit. To learn more about this book, click here.

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