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Great customer service provides a strong foundation for any business, especially medical practices whose patients often decide whether they'll return based on their last experience

Great customer service provides a strong foundation for any business, especially medical practices whose patients often decide whether they'll return based on their last experience. That experience can include a physician, a nurse or the employee who booked the appointment and collected the copay.

Unfortunately, it takes only one person to create a negative experience. Recently in our MGMA LinkedIn Group, a group member posed a simple question that turned into a hot topic, with 21 comments to date: "Can anyone offer specific areas or situations where you think front office staff could use some customer service re-training assistance?"

Here's advice from our group's members:

  • "Hospitality training is the first thing everyone receives when newly employed and [it] is a topic at each staff meeting. Patients are our customers and are treated as we would like to be. Although we are not Disney, I'd like to think we do our best every day. With direct eye contact, a warm greeting and attention to wait times, our patients are treated as the reason for our existence. One angry patient can do more harm to your business than the good a happy patient can do!"

    - Barbara Bernal, practice manager at Bucks Rehabilitation Specialists
  • Some patients become frustrated when they are treated as if their telephone calls or their questions are an imposition upon staff. Staff should never give patients that impression.

    Be patient with senior citizens when gathering insurance information. Medicare HMOs and Medicare supplement policies are not as simple as the commercials claim and not easily understood by everyone.

    - Jim Grigsby, CPAM, CDIA, president/CEO at Jim Grigsby Consulting
  • "Pay attention to the tone of the office. It starts with the first point of contact, even before the patient goes to the exam room."

    - Quentin Mitchum, business analyst at HCA Physician Services
  • "I recently had a discussion with a health system that is now training its physicians to apologize when a mistake in care is made. This might seem counterintuitive in relation to risk management, but apparently studies have shown that patients are more apt to accept mistakes in care if the physician/practice/health system 'owns' it rather than ignores or refuses to acknowledge it in a forthright manner."

    - Aaron Boatin, Ambs Call Center, 24-Hour Telephone Answering
  • "One of the keys to maintaining momentum after delivering the service protocols is to hold staff accountable for the service standards (integrating them with employee job descriptions, including them in performance evaluations) and conducting ongoing satisfaction measurement (patient surveys, mystery patient assessments, etc.)."

    - Mari Bacon, director, Sales & Client Service at SullivanLuallin Inc.
  • "Training should be seen as a reinforcement tool. My experience bears out that insufficient attention to what the business culture is and says and does only results in any training having a short life span ... and so having to be reinvented continually."

    - Tim Wright, owner of Wright Results Inc.
  • "The receptionist sets the tone for the entire visit experience. The medical profession is behind in this area. We don't do it as well as hotels, restaurants and other service industries. What's more ironic is that customers get more TLC ordering a burger than our ailing patients in our offices."

    - Ciro Attardo, physician at Horizon Family Medical Group

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