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Archive May 2019 XX, No. 5

Business Advisor: Scripting for Your Front Desk Receptionist

Tactful responses for 5 common patient questions and complaints.

Angela Williams

Angela Williams, MHSA, LHRM


Ever cringe when you overhear your front desk receptionist answer a patient's question (complaint) with all the warmth and compassion of a cactus? You might want to try scripting, a simple yet effective way to help your front office staff respond to the questions they're likely to hear over and over with honest, heartful answers that don't sound programmed and cold.

Why did I have to arrive so early? Why do I have to wait so long? Why is your online registration portal so darned confusing? And on and on. It's easy for your receptionist to respond to all the griping and grumbling with abrupt answers. The last thing you want is your patients to tell their friends and family and Facebook "how rude those front desk people are at Great Valley Surgery Center."

If the smile your receptionist flashes to meet and greet patients shrivels into a scowl with each complaint she hears, help her with these words or phrases she can use in her daily interactions and conversations with patients. OSM

Situation What does not work Scripting that works
Patient arrives earlier than she was supposed to and is now upset for the wait. "Sorry, we always tell a patient to come in a half-hour before, not 1-hour just for this reason. We are not first-come-first-serve." "I am sorry if there was a misunderstanding on your arrival time. I will see if there is a way to go ahead and have an RN get you started in pre-op. In the meantime, is there anything I can get you to make your wait more comfortable?"
Patient does not want to have ID scanned due to privacy concerns. "Our policy is to scan your ID into our system. And I must follow our policy." "I understand your concern for privacy, and we have the same concern. We do follow HIPAA laws, and our systems are secure. However, I think we can work with your request so that your needs are met, and we follow our requirements. I can also put a note in your chart stating your concern."
Patient is frustrated with your patient portal and does not want to use it. "I agree, the portal is very confusing. You don't have to use it." "I will try to help or find someone who can help you navigate through the portal. I think that you will find it helpful in communicating with us about your care and your account."
Patient asks why they're delayed. "We're short-staffed."
"We have one doctor here today, and the other patients before you are here to see that doctor."
"We had equipment issues."
"I apologize for your delay. We have had some unforeseen events today, but I want to assure you that you will receive our complete attention once we are ready to serve you. Would you like to call and alert your family that you'll be longer than expected (try to give an estimate)?" You can also give the patient an option to reschedule: "I can schedule you for another day, if this delay is making you late."
Missing paperwork (testing, labs, insurance verification). "I know that I sent your information to ______ . They should have received it." "I am going to follow-up with ______ to verify that your information has been received. Would you give me a moment?"
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