Tips for Handling Irate or Aggressive Patient Phone Calls

Answering phone calls from angry or aggressive patients is part of the job at most doctors’ offices. Some people simply have forceful or demanding personalities, but the reason for a patient’s seemingly rude or combative behavior may be rooted in pain, fear or panic. Of course, there are also patients who are calling to complain about what they consider a legitimate and reasonable complaint about scheduling, services received or their bill. Figuring out the source of a caller’s negative attitude is the first step in resolving the situation in a way that aids the patient and reflects positively on the physician or medical practice.

When answering the phone, physician office staff must first ascertain the reason for the caller’s attitude. It is critically important to determine whether the patient’s medical condition or a medical emergency is behind the fear or anger in the patient’s voice. As any parent knows, adults often express fear and panic as anger. Remaining unfailingly calm and courteous can help you gain control of the situation and can have a calming effect on the person at the other end of the phone line.

Use a combination of direct questions and active listening to urge callers to express the basic purpose of their call. First and foremost, you want to identify and address medical emergency calls. Next, if you cannot address the patients’ needs directly; you want to transfer them to the individual or department than can give them the help they need as quickly as possible.

A live operator medical answering service provides the human connection patients expect when they call their doctor. 

To be continued