By Ally Stoeger, OD
A few days ago I was at the front desk when a patient came in to pick up her daughter’s contact lenses. It was obvious she was unhappy, so I asked what was wrong. She said she just couldn’t understand how she could have a vision plan and still be spending so much money on glasses and contact lenses for her daughter. Her daughter had purchased eyeglasses and a six-month supply of one-day contacts at her annual exam six months ago. Now she had to spend more money to buy additional contacts for the second half of the year.
The person at my front desk was a new employee, and had I not been there to explain how vision plans work, the patient may have simply picked up the lenses and left angry, perhaps even thinking we over-charged her.
It’s important to teach your front desk staff that it’s OK to say to a patient: “You seem to be upset or confused about something. Would you mind letting me know what it is so that we can try to fix the problem?”
By saying this to the above patient we began the conversation with everyone a bit on edge, but ended up with a friendly conversation and even some laughter. I offered to mail the lenses to her daughter at college and that made her really happy. Turns out one of the reasons she was so upset was that she had gotten stuck in traffic getting to my office. She really appreciated not having to go to the post office. The conversation ended so well that I’m confident she will return to my office and feel comfortable asking questions about fees and insurance.
Ask any front desk employee and they will tell you: stress levels are reaching crisis proportions. Patients are confused and angry about coverage offered by their vision plans; they are reading on the internet and elsewhere that they have to be wary of being over-charged; and they are facing ever higher co-pays/co-insurances/deductibles on their medical visits.
It’s important to provide training to staff members so that they can respond properly to patients who overtly complain–and address proactively the “silently seething.”
How do you prepare your front desk to calmly resolve questions about vision benefits, and other difficult issues, with patients?
Ally Stoeger, OD, was a founding and managing partner of a multi-doctor practice and has recently opened a new practice in Gainesville, Va. Contact: email@example.com. You also can follow Dr. Stoeger on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/gheyedr.