The clinical reception area, be it in a clinic or hospital, is the first and last place that a patient encounters during their anxious visit. Thus it has a major role in imprinting a positive or negative impression, while also influencing the dynamics of the encounter while there. The receptionists not only look after running the facility smoothly but have the potential to allay all kinds of fears with just a few attentive words. Patient mindfulness and empathetic communication are undoubtedly the two most important skills in achieving these goals. Patients, clinical and administrative staff all stand to benefit from the capability of medical receptionists to construct a friendly, warm, welcoming and conflict free front office.

Following are some of the less tangible aspects of a receptionist’s role, which may dramatically alter the clinic experience:
  • Realizing that the clinic visit begins even before the patient or family physically arrive
  • The tone of the visit is established by the communications with patients over the phone or via email.
  • Transmitting the scheduled appointment time, location and clinicians to be encountered may allay many fears
  • How incoming calls are answered, including tone and content of the conversation, transfer of calls are all important.
  • Checking patients in and out for their appointments, while mindful to their individual needs.
  • Personal reminder and follow-up calls
  • Updating social media accounts tactfully

According to an article published in 1994, “Organizing Care for Patients with Chronic Illness

“Usual medical care often fails to meet the needs of chronically ill patients, even in managed, integrated delivery systems. The medical literature suggests strategies to improve outcomes in these patients. Effective interventions tend to fall into one of five areas: the use of evidence-based, planned care; reorganization of practice systems and provider roles; improved patient self-management support; increased access to expertise; and greater availability of clinical information. The challenge is to organize these components into an integrated system of chronic illness care.”

Receptionists need to be aware and open about social and cultural differences. They should be sensitive to the needs of patients and their families. These traits become even more crucial when it comes to interacting with patients with chronic diseases like kidney failure. Most of the patients may be in more general discomfort, and be more anxious, with greater fears of the unknown. A discourteous, ill-informed or oblivious staff is the last thing they want.

Here are a few important pointers to enhance that first encounter:

Don’t just hear: Listen

Listening is an art. Many patients may be so anxious that they may have difficulties stating simple answers, let alone explain the purpose of their visit. You can calm them by acknowledging them properly and by asking them the right questions to continue a conversation.

Empathetic approach

The quality of physical care is important for the patient, but a positive welcoming manner with an empathetic approach can greatly enhance that experience. Kidney patients and their families are dealing with various physical and psychological changes in their lives. Knowing how to handle these basic human emotions can make your job a lot easier.

Positive approach

Being at the front desk means that you will be approached first for any kind of query, complaint, suggestion or compliment. Dealing with the visitor patiently with a positive approach will help you in building a rapport with the patient and his/her family. This will be extremely beneficial in your ongoing relationship with them. Listening to them attentively and working proactively will help you to gain their trust.

Explain the What and the Why

Let your patient know everything that you are doing and why you are doing it. Most people’s fear of the hospital comes from being in an unfamiliar environment and not knowing what to expect.

Personal approach

Make efforts to lighten the mood and be personable but don’t ask intrusive or personal questions. Having patience with the visitors can go a long way in helping them to feel less stressed, isolated and upset.

Be prepared for stressful situations

No matter how proactive you are or how well you attend to a visitor, there will always be stressful encounters that are not under your control. The best you can do is to understand how this stress is affecting you and thus take control of the situation.

It is extremely important to understand the ever-changing health needs and to realign your approach accordingly. The increased burden of complex chronic diseases, combined with the growing clinical and organizational opportunities to manage them, allows for both opportunities and challenges for the medical receptionist. A strong support system can go a long way in managing the health care facility in a proper manner.

We would be happy to hear what approach you use to create a positive work environment.

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