3 - mountain climber.png

Running Your Practice Professionally Using SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures)

Perfection can never be achieved, but by continually seeking it, we might reach excellence.

A well-run practice operates according to SOP templates. If you don't have clear SOPs for everything, your practice will be like a ship without a rudder. You might get lucky, but chances are, you’ll have episodes of stress. These SOPs must cover both the Systems and the Communications Skills. Skills and Systems are intertwined and always need to be reappraised and continually improved.

To begin, make a list of all the variables that you can think of, that effect the patient experience and practice efficiency. Come up with SOPs for each variable. Since we are always seeing the practice through the eyes of our patients, let’s start at the beginning.

SOPs for the 1st Contact: The First Phone Call

If someone phones your practice, how many rings before the phone is answered?

Let’s say 3 rings is the target. How can you ensure that the target is met?

Each team member can have a wireless headset. If anyone hears 3 unanswered rings, then the phone needs to be answered by whoever is available. Whoever reaches the caller can start the conversation and then pass it on to someone else, or even put the patient on hold for up to 30 seconds. Ideally, all team members can handle an entire call.

Action: Buy wireless headsets and start phone skills training and make sure everyone is capable of booking an appointment.

Phone Skills Training

• Book an hour every month for the team to get together and improve their skills.

• Record some phone conversations from the previous month and play the recordings at the training.

• Discuss as a team what could be done to improve these skills.

• Review what information needs to be gathered and appraise the tonality of each call.

• Break up into groups of 3. One person be the caller. One is the callee. One the observer.

• Switch roles and repeat the exercises.

Answering The Phone

Hello, this is Happy Smiles, my name is Betty, how may I help you?

Tonality Is Critical

While the words are identical, no script can repair the damage done if someone has poor tonality. Tone conveys everything. Boredom, Enthusiasm, Being Rushed, Empathy, Anger, Frustration, Kindness, Patience.

Points To Cover

Since it’s impossible to script out the whole phone call, here are a few key points.

After you said “how can I help you” it’s now your turn to listen carefully and let the patient say whatever they want to say. Don't interrupt. People need to feel that they were listened to.

After they have paused, now you can ask a few questions.

You certainly need to know their name in order to build the relationship, but if they just said something about a problem that they are experiencing, your 1st objective is to Align and Empathize.

Example 1.

Patient: My husband died 2 years ago and I just didn't feel like going to the dentist.

Response: Sorry to hear it. Can I have your name please.

Example 2.

Patient: My husband died 2 years ago and I just didn't feel like going to the dentist.

Response: Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that. I guess it's a good sign that you’re now able to make the call I’m sure it’s not easy for you. I’m sorry but I think I forgot to ask for your name.

The chances of the patient not turning up after the 1st example are pretty high.

There are several objectives for each call. The overall objective is to actually book the appointment (you’ll need skills to convert phone shoppers):

  1. Determine if it is an Emergency or a Consultation appointment.
  2. Allocate the correct amount of time based on the conversation.
  3. Set expectations in the patient’s mind:

What will happen; how long they need to expect to be with you; the cost; pay on the day.

  1. Who referred them.

  2. A very quick check on what sort of treatment they’ve had in the past.

  3. Do they want to be added to a quick-call list.

  4. Send them a welcome pack which includes a health history form.

Each of these items can be a subject of a more detailed article. But without having a structure or a template into which you can add the details, all the information you gather will remain a jumble.

By Dr. Michael Sernik