Like the Ghostbusters team in the original 1984 movie, your clinic’s central intake office is the first call when a consumer is seeking help. A central intake process is one where clinics have one trained individual answering phones and assessing callers to see what treatment plan works best for them. Callers can be extremely vulnerable during this time which is why it is important for the call to be handled appropriately.
It takes a lot of courage for clients to make the first initial call to your clinic. They are often very nervous and their resolve to seek out treatment and to heal is shaky. If they have a bad experience during a phone call with your central intake office, it could convince them to not seek treatment and continue with their unhealthy habits. If handled correctly, the first phone call could be a catalyst for successful treatment and healthy living habits.
Here are three expectations you should have for your intake staff when clients are reaching out for help:
- Answering Questions
When calling your central intake office to seek help, your clients will typically have a few main questions:
- What’s wrong with me?
- The client is calling for a diagnosis and treatment plan. From you, they want to be able to tell you their symptoms and have you tell them a name for what they are struggling with.
- Can you help me?
- The next thing the client wants to know is whether your clinic will be able to help them. They’ll want an idea of what types of services you offer, what their options are, and what their experience would be like.
- How much will it cost?
- The inevitable next question is how much your services will cost. Clients will want information about pricing, payment plans, and insurance coverage.
- How long will it take?
- Seeking help is a big commitment and clients will want to know how much time they will need to commit. If there are different options for their time commitment, they should be made aware of that as well.
- What happens next?
- Your central intake office must be very clear about what the next steps are. If the client is made aware of what happens next in their process, they will feel more comfortable and will be more likely to continue willingly.
- Communicate Follow-Up Procedures
After completing the initial call, your clinic should seek to reestablish contact with the client within 5-8 days to ensure that the client remains engaged and willing to continue treatment. Some central intake offices will promise to call the client within 24 hours with further information.
To ensure effective initial calls, the central intake point of contact should be trained alongside your staff and clinicians to ensure that they have full knowledge of your clinic and its programs. This will help them to properly answer any questions the caller has. Their training should include all aspects of your clinic and its programs. It should ensure that there are consistent standards being emphasized throughout the organization. Implementing this training can also help your clinic adopt Open Access hours.
For more information on Open Access, read the blog post Open Access, Opening the Door to a More Efficient Clinic.
- Prioritize Client Safety
A front desk point of contact must be aware of the safety procedures. They should be able to react properly to an emergency within the clinic-both practice based and not practice based. They should also know the proper protocol for dealing with a client on the phone who is personally in a state of emergency. Each clinic has their specific way of handling this. If you don’t, you should begin creating one that all your staff are briefed on. Everyone should know how to react during emergencies, but it’s especially important for the central intake agent because they are the face of your clinic. The clients should be kept calm whether it is a clinic emergency or their personal emergency that is being handled.
Bringing It All Together
Overall, your central intake office should always have the client at the forefront of their mind. Their job is to ensure that the client is safe and their needs are being handled. Some final points to remember when conducting an initial phone call:
- The client should feel as if they are a priority.
- All the client’s questions should be answered. If they can’t be answered during the initial phone call, the front desk point of contact should assure the client that an answer will be found and give them a time to expect an answer by.
- The main goal of the initial call is to decide how the program can begin to help the client immediately.
- Emergencies should be handled appropriately if they arise.
By taking these aspects into consideration, your central intake office will be able to handle any call!