Ring, Ring…

Your office: Hello, Dr. Smith’s office. How may I help you?

Mom: My daughter has an emergency and we need to get in to see the doctor.

Your office: Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that. Is she in pain? Was she in an accident? Is she bleeding? How serious is the emergency?

Mom: No, no, not like that. She broke a bracket and needs to get it fixed.

Your office: Whew! You had me worried there for a minute. When you said emergency I thought she was in pain. So glad to hear that is not the case. A broken bracket is a different story. They happen! It’s not a problem at all. Dr. Smith sets aside time every day at 10:30 am to deal with this kind of thing. How does that sound?

Mom: My daughter can’t miss school. She is likely going to be in MENSA soon. She is a genius!

Your office: I totally understand, mom. Not a problem at all. I have a 3:30 appointment available in 6 weeks. How does that sound?

Mom: No, that won’t work. She has an emergency and needs to be seen now.

Your office: I see – if she is in pain that is a different story altogether.  She can come to the office right now and we will work her in and clip the wire to make her comfortable so that we can then schedule her for the repair after school as we discussed.

Mom: No, she is not in pain. She doesn’t need to come in right now. She just needs to get her bracket fixed.

Your office: I understand. We know you tell her not to eat things that are on the no-no list but kids will be kids! Dr. Smith sets aside time every day at 10:30 to take care of these kinds of issues. It is always best to get broken brackets fixed sooner than later so we don’t extend treatment time.

Mom: But my daughter can’t miss school.

Your office: I understand. Since she is not in pain she can certainly wait until the 3:30 appointment in 6 weeks if that is better for you.

Mom: Can’t she come in sooner AND after school?

Your office: Mom, as I’m sure you know, the vast majority of our patients are school age. We do our best to share those appointments, as you know from our discussion of this topic on your first visit. We are totally booked up for after school appointments for the next six weeks!

This can go on and on and on… We never get upset and we never say no. We have options and mom can choose which one works best for her.

Mom will see it your way 99 percent of the time if you hold fast and don’t talk too much. Feel free to sit in silence after saying your piece and giving options. That uncomfortable silence works to your advantage!

It is vital that all the team members are on the same page here. If there is even one team member who will give into an insistent mom then mom will just hang up and keep calling back until she gets the rule breaker who will let her have her way. Worse even than a team member who doesn’t follow protocol is a doctor who gives into mom and undercuts the team (who is doing what the doctor told them to do). If that happens then you are screwed because no one will stand up to mom in the future only to be made to look foolish by the doctor.


2 thoughts on “How To Deal With Ortho Emergency Calls – Scripting

  1. What kills me is when after we respond like this the parents either; 1) lie and say their child is in pain, or 2) bring them in for their scheduled adjustment with a handful of broken brackets……at the busiest time of the afternoon.

  2. Brian, that certainly is annoying! If the parent says the child is in pain then we don’t have any choice but to see them. We do, however, have a choice as to how we handle it. Just trim or temove the wire in that situation and reappoint for a time when you have time to take great care of the patient.
    You: “Mom, you did the right thing to bring Johnny in. I’m so sorry he was in pain. We took care of the problem and he won’t hurt anymore and we set up an appointment to repair his braces.”
    Mom: But I don’t have time to come back here again, you need to fix his braces now.
    You: As you can see it’s a really busy time. As you were told when you called, we are happy to see any child that is in pain and get them out of pain. We have done that. But honestly mam I don’t have the time to do what needs to be done properly at this point and I know you don’t want me to make all these people who have appointments wait.
    Mom: That’s not good enough! I want it fixed today.
    You: No problem mom. I’m happy to do so. If you and Johnny will wait in the lobby we will fit you in when we can. It will likely be about 5 because, as you know, after school is a popular time! I’ll do my best to make it sooner but if you’re able to wait then I’ll fix Johnny up today and save you a trip.

    Then they wait until you’re done seeing patients to be seen today – or they don’t. Any further argument from mom is irrational. You are going above and beyond. I don’t deal with irrational people.
    The good news is most people don’t lie and most people don’t get irrational when we treat them fairly and with kindness.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment!

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