Wednesday, 01 May 2019
Critical Patient Conversations, with Nola Aronson M.A.
Insights from the Outside is a group of practicing clinicians and practice owners. This is a diverse group from many medical specialties, including dentistry, veterinary medicine, cosmetic surgery, ophthalmology, audiology and optometry. This group was uniquely created by CareCredit for the purpose of capturing and sharing “best practices” to some of the common challenges all healthcare business owners face, such as attracting new patients, the patient experience, patient retention, social media, team training and empowerment and much more. Insights from the Outside is a group of practicing clinicians and practice owners. This is a diverse group from many medical specialties, including dentistry, veterinary medicine, cosmetic surgery, ophthalmology, audiology and optometry. This group was uniquely created by CareCredit for the purpose of capturing and sharing “best practices” to some of the common challenges all healthcare business owners face, such as attracting new patients, the patient experience, patient retention, social media, team training and empowerment and much more.
Q: Why are the team’s communication skills so important to the success of the practice?
Ms. Aronson: People often come in our practice door with elevated emotions. They are stressed, concerned and anxious. First and foremost, they want to feel welcomed and comfortable. When people are emotional, it’s harder for them to make great decisions regarding their hearing health. The team is responsible for communicating empathy and expertise to patients, so they can relax and be confident they have chosen the right practice for their hearing health needs.
Q: Which conversations are the most critical?
Ms. Aronson: Every conversation the team has with patients is an opportunity to build relationships, resulting in treatment acceptance, patient satisfaction, retention and referrals. But there are three critical conversations that directly impact the health of the practice and patients, which are 1) the new patient call, 2) the clinical results and recommendations discussion and 3) the financial conversation.
Q: Can you give me some key strategies for a successful new patient call?
Ms. Aronson: It’s important to remember that we are communicating by phone, so it’s important what we say and how we say it. My team is trained to smile every time they answer the phone. Smiles can be heard and felt by the person on the other end of the line. We believe that healthcare is personal, so we always introduce ourselves by name and we ask them how we can help them HEAR today. We want to let people know we are there to listen and to help. Before you can solve a problem, you have to listen and respond with empathy. Everyone has different needs, different situations and, therefore, needs to be treated like unique individuals. In terms of best practices, don’t interrupt and speak clearly and slowly, without talking down to people. We have found one of the best ways to improve our team’s phone skills is by having them professionally recorded, so we can listen and celebrate what’s working and retrain where needed. We also have success metrics where we evaluate the effectiveness of our phone skills by measuring how many patients schedule, schedule appropriately and keep their appointment.
Q: What are some communication techniques for the clinical treatment recommendation conversation?
Ms. Aronson: The success of the treatment conversation starts before the examination. When the patient is escorted to the back, we take a thorough health history that includes capturing how the patient’s hearing health is affecting their daily lives, what specific situations they find most frustrating and what they think the change will be with better hearing. We then do testing and share with the patient and their spouse the results of the audiogram, relating it to the frustrations and situations they have shared with us. “Mrs. Jones, no wonder you are frustrated that your husband doesn’t seem to be paying attention to you. As you can see with the audiogram, Mr. Jones is missing those sounds.” The next step is to provide personalized solutions and pricing. We use a chart that clearly explains the benefits they will enjoy at each technology and price level and let them know we have solutions for all budgets. Then we let patients know that because we want to help them change their lives, we can make it possible for them to try the lowest and highest-end technology so they can compare the results and benefits and make a more informed decision. It is a no-obligation trial period. Be a real person, an advocate for the patient and let them know it’s their decision to make, and your role is to provide information and guidance.
Q: Which brings up the final critical conversation, the financial conversation. How do you make the money talk a win-win for your practice and patients?
Ms. Aronson: Although there is a focused discussion on cost and payment options, we are happy to talk about it any time the patient is. The financial conversation is about communicating value and enabling patients to say “yes”. To enable patients to choose the most appropriate technology, we accept the CareCredit healthcare credit card. Just because people believe it’s expensive doesn’t mean that they are not willing to pay for it, especially if you can find a comfortable way to fit the cost into their monthly budget. If the patients hear and understand the value and can experience the benefits, then it’s just about fitting the cost comfortably into their lives.
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