Telephone Techniques For Medical Assistants

It has often been said that the telephone is the lifeline of the physician's office. Communication over the telephone requires understanding on the part of each communicator. Each medium uses the proper tools to get the job done. Speaking on the telephone is much like a conversation between two blindfolded individuals. The facial expressions cannot be seen, there is no eye contact, and there is no visual feedback. The listener will interpret mood by the tone and pacing of voice and the words spoken. When speaking on the telephone, quick conclusions are drawn. Often, we jump to conclusions, and the communication is misinterpreted.    
The old, cold, aloof, formal business greeting comes across like frostbite in the medical office setting. It sounds curt, bored, and uncaring. Think of welcoming a new acquaintance into your homethen practice the same characteristics when speaking on the telephone. Speaking clearly, use words that will be easily understood and ask questions to verify that the patient has understood the message being conveyed. Concentrate on enunciating and being understood. If you hear, "What? I didn't understand you. I can't hear you," slow down and speak a little louder with distinct enunciation directly into the mouthpiece. The mouthpiece should be held one to two inches away from the mouth. Project your voice at the mouthpiece and then project another foot further. Your voice is the delivery system for your words and thoughts. Speak with confidence and conviction.

Have you ever called an office and had the firm name clipped off? The name of the office is important. To avoid clipping off the office name, practice using buffer words. Buffer words are expendable; if you clip them off, at least the office name remains intact. Use buffer words before the office name and before you identify yourself. "Good morning, this is Inner City Health Care. This is Walter, how may I help you?" Good morning and this is are buffer words.    
All the techniques for effective face-to-face communication must be more intentionally observed when the communication is over the telephone because you cannot see the person with whom you are speaking. You must listen with full attention to make certain that the message sent and received is correct.    

To close a telephone conversation to schedule an appointment, for example, consider the following:    
1. Use the patient's name if it can be done without announcing the name to persons in the reception area.    
2. Confirm the date and time of the appointment.    
3. Identify which physician if there is more than one physician in the office.    
4. Give any specific instructions that may be necessary.    
5. Say goodbye.