How fast should we reply to patients?
That’s what I’ve heard so far at many medical travel conferences. Replying to a potential patient before any other clinic does increase your chances of winning that patient to your clinic by over 50% as our previous patient surveys have confirmed.
I’ve seen it in practice too – clinics like Favorit Dental in Romania. They have reached fantastic results by beginning to reply to every patient within 59 seconds. However, when you make the effort to measure patient communication response times, your team are driven to beat the numbers, and this may cause necessary stress.
Could you be answering your patients more quickly and get more bookings? Yes, almost certainly. Would faster answers create happier patients and a better overall patient experience? Not necessarily.
Speed matters more in some situations. Some of your patients and some types of questions will be much more sensitive to speed than others. Can you identify those in your queues and answer them more quickly?
Don’t miss our article about the future of patient communication.
Patient expectations vary by channel
Different channels require different speeds – “Fast” for email is very different than fast for phone support, and for the live chat. Patient expectations vary by channel, and your speed targets should too. Here are some examples of most used communications tools in clinics.
A correct, helpful answer beats a fast, unhelpful one
Research has shown that waiting time matters much less when the eventual answer is helpful and polite. When I ran a test in my own clinic, responding in 10 minutes instead of 20 minutes did not improve our patient satisfaction ratings, but it did improve the number of patient bookings.
Consequently, my admin team works on the principle of “better” is greater than “faster” – and we put patient satisfaction scores above response times in our weekly goals. You need to and should be measuring patient satisfaction with each interaction to check this. Here are some great tools for measuring patients satisfaction.
You could run the same experiments with your own patient base and figure out how to most effectively spend the time and energy of your clinic admin team. Identify the particular patients and question types where speed makes the most difference, and target those. Smarter triage, good workflows and better contact forms can help you to do that.
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