Daniel E. Lofaso 4m 975 #emergencyroom
The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
The Top 5 Reasons Patients Call Your Emergency Department
Prepare your emergency department for the most common reasons people call the hospital and you’ll reduce patient call volume and boost satisfaction scores.
You can’t prepare for all the unique reasons patients call the emergency room.
But when you know why people most often call the hospital, you can better anticipate patient calls at your emergency department.
Because no matter the reason for the call, every conversation matters when it comes to your ED’s patient satisfaction scores and your bottom line.
A simple phone call is where many patients have their first interaction with you.
If your call staff is overworked, poorly trained, or struggling with inefficiency, you’ll risk having unsatisfied customers and patients who take their business elsewhere.
Prepare for these calls ahead of time and you’ll be on your way to happier patients and greater revenue.
According to data from recent hospital call center research, these are the most common reasons patients call the emergency room:
#1. There’s An Actual Emergency (or Potential For One)
Certain patients have to practically diagnose themselves before going to the emergency department or face the repercussions of non-reimbursement from their insurance companies[*].
So your team should expect a large volume of calls from patients asking if they should visit the ED if symptoms get worse or call an ambulance immediately.
Patients need a quick response from a calm representative able to listen for the right combination of red flags and warning signs.
Prepare for this by training your phone staff to quickly triage potential emergency calls. Create a flowchart for staff to follow with yes or no questions about common emergency symptoms.
#2. To Ask For Advice
Since many patients now lack a primary care doctor, they will often use the ED when they’re feeling ill or injured.
And rather than make an appointment with a general physician (or visit an urgent care facility), they’ll call the ED to ask for free advice about their condition.
Many will expect a speedy diagnosis over the phone based on their symptoms, or wait for your team to tell them they’re okay.
Prepare for this by implementing more telemedicine in your emergency department. You’ll be able to speak with patients virtually to better understand their situation.
Telemedicine may reduce your number of non-urgent ED visits too.
#3. Hours, Directions, Wait Time, Appointments, Etc.
Patients will call to see how late the ED is open even though most operate 24/7. Then they’ll ask about how to get there, where they should park, if there’s a long wait if they can make an appointment, etc.
These run-of-the-mill calls are usually answered quickly but can become a drag on your team when volume increases. This is especially true when dealing with extra summer cases in the ED.
Prepare for this by clearly listing your hours and directions on your website. Add this intel to your Google business profile as well so patients can navigate to your ED right from their phones.
You should also post current wait times, parking information, and all the services your group offers on your website.
And think about creating a dedicated page to answer this next type of call.
#4. Health Insurance and Payment Questions
Questions about in-network coverage spike around open enrollment time in January. But self-pay patients will call throughout the year to ask about payment plans and financing options before they visit.
Prepare for this by giving your call staff the information they need to determine a patient’s in-network coverage and help them prepare for their expected out-of-pocket expenses.
You may also want your team to redirect patients to your website for more information.
Having an intuitive and informative website will not only reduce patient calls but also help put your ED’s best foot forward.
#5. To Vet Your Business
New patients may call your emergency department to get a feel for what your facility will be like before they go out of their way to visit.
Patients expect representatives who genuinely care about them and want to provide answers to all their questions or hesitations.
Stats show it only takes two negative phone experiences to tarnish a patient’s perception of your facility[*]. So again, every call counts.
Making a connection here is only one touchpoint for your patients. They’ll also use your website.
Prepare for this call by practicing excellent customer service skills. Patients should not be kept on hold long or transferred to different lines/departments. They should receive accurate answers in a friendly manner.
During this type of call, have your staff encourage patients to visit your website. Here you should offer information about your emergency department, including:
- Your hours, directions, and current wait times
- Services offered
- In-network coverage and self-pay financing plans
- Bios for your emergency physicians
- Short blurbs about your team’s experience
- Free content like blog posts, email newsletters, classes or seminars, etc.
- Case studies to highlight specialties
These pages help attract patients before and after your initial phone call and should lead to much-needed revenue.
Train your team to handle these calls — and offer ongoing education to make sure everyone’s performing well — and you’ll raise patient satisfaction scores and improve efficiency at your ER.
A Winning Customer Experience Starts By Acing Your Patient Calls
Every phone call matters at your emergency department, no matter how mundane the reason.
So besides ensuring your patient’s best course of action, remind your staff that answering the phone is their first chance to build patient loyalty.
When patients receive a positive customer service experience, they’re more likely to return and recommend that business to their friends and family.
Train your call staff to handle these calls and you’ll boost revenue and satisfaction scores at the same time.
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