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First Contact: Establishing Great Patient Service from the First Phone Call

We are all, at some time, unhappy consumers—the company website took forever to load, the person answering the phone spoke way too fast, no one knew the answer to our questions, and everything arrived late, in bad repair, or not as promised. We can recover from mismatched drapes; but ask yourself this: how do your patients recover from a bad first contact?

It is possible to ensure that patients have a good experience, one that brings them to you medical team and keeps them benefiting from your expertise, well before, during, and after that first contact.

Prepare Your Staff to Give Great Patient Service

A knowledgeable medical office staff is prepared to give great patient service from the first phone call. Part of that service is making sure your office staff speaks politely, clearly, and slowly, and knows how to deal the simultaneous demands of a caller and a patient at the desk. 

When that first phone call comes in, make sure that your staff is prepared to:

  • Share your routine—how long will an initial appointment take and what will it include?
  • Gather the information you need—set up a data base where you capture the names, contact information, and medical concern of people who call.
  • Ask the patient to bring insurance information but do not collect it on the phone—on average of 20% of new patients cancel so the time spent collecting insurance information is wasted. 
  • Give patients the information they need—for example, confirm your medical office location and the date/time of their appointment; ask them to bring a list of current medications; and so on.
  • Politely accept and reschedule a cancellation for any reason.
  • Limit a patient’s time on hold. One survey found that over 30% of people refuse to wait on hold at all—and the younger the person, the less tolerance they had for “please hold.” 

Prepare Your Office Environment to Welcome Patients

Before patients step through your doors, ask yourself if you would feel comfortable in the environment you are providing for them. Check whether:

  • Your location is convenient, with plenty of parking.
  • The approach to the office welcomes patients with a clean, neat, landscaped appearance?
  • Your cleaning staff regularly cleans and it shows.
  • Receptionist is welcoming—not an implacable tiger attacking everyone who crosses the door.
  • Your waiting area is comfortable for both the patient and any accompanying adult or children.

Prepare Yourself to Give Great Patient Service

You have a major role in determining if the first contact—or any contact—with a patient is a success or failure. You need to:

  • Stay on time. Patients resent waiting as much as you do.
  • Communicate. If you dislike talking, train someone on your staff to handle most communication for you and then engage the new patient in a few standard, polite questions (“how are you today?” is a fine start). Make sure the patient understands what you are doing and recommending in lay terms; use illustrations if needed.
  • Set up systems. Put in place efficient information gathering and storage scripts, forms, and files.
  • Keep in contact. Every contact—website, social media, phone, or in person—is building a relationship with a patient. Capture names and emails on your website (perhaps by offering a relevant article), send out appointment reminders, and make appointments for continuing care before the patient leaves the office.


At JB Partners, LLC, we know that a great first contact brings patients into the office and ensures they stay. You and your staff must show them that you are professionals who care and are trustworthy. We have the experience, tools, and techniques you need to help that happen in your medical office. Reach out to us today.



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Jen Butler, MEd, BCC, DAIS

Jen Butler is the CEO and founder of JB Partners, LLC. Her passion is to work with dentists who have been held back by stress, fear and frustration and are committed to improving their business, leadership and stress management toolbox.