Imagine you are a brand new employee and you answer the phone in the office. After a rehearsed, professional, and pleasant greeting, you ask, "how may I help you this morning?"
A young man answers, "I have to get in to see someone today!" His voice is shaky and he sounds like he is in pain. As a new employee, you can feel your heart rate going up and you are sitting up straighter, questioning what do I do now?
- Be calm– Think emergency dispatcher. No matter how dire the situation, your job requires clearheaded thinking and compassionate communication.
- Initiate your triage strategy - Pull up the form and begin asking the questions. Start with their name and the best contact number, then work your way methodically down the question list.
- Offer just in time care - What if it turns out that the dire situation is that the young man is leaving on a weeklong heli-skiing trip tomorrow and he just realized he is out of daily contact lenses? In our opinion, the best way to ensure that your optometric business continues to succeed is to always accommodate a patients request just in time. Sure, the young man might need to be strategically scheduled later in the day if his prescription has expired, since this is hardly a medical emergency. Still, it's a valid emergency to him. Honor that feeling and work him in. Make him feel like he is a priority to you. If you don’t, he'll likely take his business elsewhere.
Triage is one of the most stressful responsibilities in medical reception. Make sure all of your employees, new and established, are clear on your scheduling philosophy (just in time or otherwise), and have the most effective tools at their fingertips to handle those calls. This will go a long way in helping your team feel confident in how they handle the patient on the other end of the line.
Plan of action:
- In your next staff meeting, review your phone triage procedures and tools (10 minutes)
- Divide up into pairs and role play triage calls (15 minutes)
- Debrief as a team to answer any questions and consider any ideas that arise during the role play