Phone Calls from Prospective Patients

Guidelines for Practice Success | Managing Patients | Patient Intake

Even though people are doing more from their computers, phones and tablets, a phone call is still likely to be the first communication with your practice. Follow these tips to make the right connection and then download sample forms under the Additional Resources below:

  • Try to answer every phone call by the third ring.
  • The person who answers the phone should speak “with a smile” in his/her voice. Try it; having a smile on your face really does make your voice friendlier.
  • Have a standard greeting that is used without exception by everyone who answers the phone. Make sure it mentions the name of the practice, the name of the person speaking and that it invites the caller to share the reason for their call. We provide a sample standard telephone greeting under the Additional Resources below.
  • Use scripts to handle the most frequent topics covered over the phone, whether it’s visiting the practice, changing or canceling an appointment, or handling an emergency, etc. We provide sample scripts under the Additional Resources below.
    • Scripts ensure that the same message is communicated to every patient every time.
    • Have your team role play different telephone scenarios so they become comfortable with them.
  • Don’t allow interruptions or put callers on hold unless there is a medical emergency or a situation that requires staff members to abandon their duties. Short holds to answer another line before the fourth ring may be necessary.
  • Once callers indicate they’re interested in a first appointment, restate your name and ask for theirs.
  • Start completing a new patient intake form. We provide a sample form you can download in the Additional Resources below. Basic questions that should be on the form include:
    • The reason for the call, especially whether it’s an emergency or a specific dental concern
    • The date of the caller’s most recent dental appointment
    • The patient’s availability
    • Any medical issues
    • How they prefer to be contacted if necessary
    • Whether they have coverage through a dental benefit plan
    • Any other information that will allow you and your staff to better accommodate them
  • Thank callers for contacting your practice and invite them to visit the office, even if they don’t make an appointment. While few callers will take you up on the offer, it lets them know that your practice is an accessible and caring environment.
  • Make sure every caller feels like he or she is the most important person you’ll talk with all day.
  • Have the front desk staff direct all new patients to the practice website. You and your staff can even suggest specific pages with content that’s relevant to their visit. Of course, make sure your website looks professional, has strong visual appeal and is easy to navigate.
    • Consider whether you’re comfortable with patients making online appointments; if so, ask your webmaster if that feature can be integrated into your website.
    • Many practices also offer a newsletter, available by an “opt-in” email and via the practice website. This is a great way to keep patients engaged with you and your practice.
Additional Resources:     

Standard Telephone Greetings and Scripts
Sample Patient Intake Form