Conversations: How to connect with your potential new patients

The right words delivered by the right people. It’s the difference between a lasting connection and a bad impression, a life-long customer and a one-time sale, or no sale at all.

Read the opening statement again and think, “In my office, which employees have these conversations every day?  In most clinics, the answer is “Your front office staff.”  They are the people in the office having conversations everyday.  They are your point of first contact for your potential new patients.  Are you sure they know the words and conversations they need to have to make that customer an actual scheduled new patient?  If you want the opportunity to deliver on the outcomes you know you can produce, then that patient has to be scheduled first.

I was recently speaking to a Physical Therapist who manages an outpatient clinic in North Carolina.  We were talking about the need to have the front office dialed in on the value that the practice brings to the patients.  He followed back up with me a week later to share an experience.  A potential new patient had walked in to inquire about Physical Therapy.  The PT by coincidence happened to catch this potential patient (who had not scheduled) as she was heading out.  He engaged her in a conversation, he shared the fact that his clinic sees patients one on one with no double booking.  The women went back to the front desk and scheduled appointments.

Why was the new patient headed out the door?  The PT took full responsibility on our call and stated that his front office was not aware of the clinic’s Value Proposition.  The front office did not know what conversation needed to happen with potential new patients; therefore they did not give the potential new patient any reason to schedule her appointment in this office.  My follow up question to him,  “How many times a day does this happen?..on the phone?… or when you’re not catching them at the front door?”  How many times can your practice afford to have that happen?

To ensure that this conversation occurs successfully, First, you need to have your front office fully prepared to share your Value Proposition. Not quite sure what I’m talking about?  It’s all right here →  Next, you have to check and recheck that the conversation is happening.  For example, sit at the front desk for an hour or two and listen to the conversations.  Take my word, you will know exactly what’s going on just by listening to one side.  You say you don’t have the time to sit at the front desk?  Well how many patients are you willing to lose on the phone?  Make the time.

Let me know your thoughts, comments and ideas.



5 thoughts on “Conversations: How to connect with your potential new patients

  1. Sarah

    I 100% agree that the staff needs to know what it is they are booking patients for. I am in awe of how uneducated the general public is on what physical therapy entails. They have no clue, most think we do what chiropractors do (a whole other convo for another time), or we just do what the doctor recommends. With that being said the front office staff should be more educated than the patient and be able to explain what can be done to help them and highlight the “pros” of the business (in a general manner so the patient understands), once they come in then it is your job to expand upon what they already know. If you are effective as you proclaim nothing should have to be sugar coated as most places attempt to do. Thanks-

  2. Austin Woods

    Completely agree with Jerry and Sarah! I remember reading a study a few years back looking at the #1 factor associated with patient satisfaction of PT experience. I would have bet money on “feeling better.” Turned out to be front desk staff and first impressions. I’ve never forgotten that. And now as a private practice owner, I place an incredibly high value on the “front desk staff.” They are far more important than many people realize! Time and effort spent on the “first contact” piece is crucial for any business.

    1. Jerry Durham Post author

      Thanks for the comment Austin. Glad you mentioned that study, it was done by our own professional Journal!

      I am all about Outcomes in PT yet we need to understand HOW and WHY patients choose us and ultimately schedule with us. How many times have you picked up a phone message from a potential patient saying, “Im looking to schedule, call me back”. And when you do they state, “oh I called another place when you didn’t answer and I got scheduled.’ I cringe when I think the number of times that has happened….or worse the ones who leave no message and just call the next place. Sometimes the Value is as simple as “we answer the phone”. Thats a rarity in Healthcare.

      Thanks again

  3. Stephen

    Hey that conversation sounds really familiar : ) I can tell you the worst part, is that the front office person has been with the company for 9-10 years. I was amazed but also crushed at how the conversation went, very unimpressive. When I started talking to her and mentioned the 1:1 aspect, the lady was sold and scheduled immediately. This was more than a lightbulb, it was more like I got hit by lightening. I can’t answer every phone call, I can’t speak to every patient that walks in the door. So I have to do a better job of training my staff on these interactions. I think sometimes our staff can become lazy and think “hey we do a good and you should come here” vs trying to sell or educate the patient on “WHY” they need to choose our clinic. I don’t have a lot of equipment in my office but I explain to patients that if I had 100 pieces of gym equipment but they can’t take it home with them then what good is that? My goal is to create a program they can effectively carry out at home. If I don’t explain that concept, our clinic looks kind a sad, but that concept is huge for patients. Also it makes the connection as a team effort from that first conversation.
    Also, Sarah, have you ever tried to explain in layman’s terms what physical therapy is in 8 words? Does it accurately describe what you do as a PT or PT as a whole? we have had a ton of discussion on Twitter about this and its almost impossible. Are we movement specialists? Well what the heck is that and when do I need it? Why is that other countries flock to see a physio (We totally should be called physiotherapists and not physical therapists by the way), while in ‘Merica, its only via referral but that is changing – I educate all day every day on direct access. So many states don’t have what I have in North Carolina and I will not take it for granted. Ok I am rambling, I need to go 🙂
    Great post as always Jerry!

  4. Aaron LeBauer PT, DPT, LMBT

    Great post! You describe a very true disconnect that occurs all to often.
    My first thought is that the best people to share your value proposition and help convert people into patients are those who have received physical therapy in your office. They can really speak from first hand knowledge about what it feels like, what benefit they received and explain about the value of the treatment/facility.
    Have the front desk staff in your office (or your’s Stephen) been treated by the physical therapists in your clinic? Do they have first hand knowledge about what it is like to be a patient? What the treatment feels like, and the difference between other clinics? When I was in massage therapy school, we were encouraged to be treated by others in our class and other professionals in the field. When I was in PT school, I was never encouraged to seek out a physical therapist for treatment.
    I feel that I could teach someone about what I do, what it should feel like and how they should benefit and expect them to be able to tell others the same thing. However, it may not mean the same thing to them as it does to me. I do not have a front office staff, but if I did and they could experience what my hands and therapy can do for them and change how they feel, then they will have a genuine ability to share the value proposition and meaning of the services and treatment to others, just as in the same way and with as much power and conviction as a patient word of mouth referral.


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