We have shared much in the past about how to communicate better with patients. After all, better connections lead to better collections. However, one of the most important aspects of communication is not conveying your message; it’s listening to the patient’s.
Listening is the most frequently used communication skill; unfortunately, many of us are poor and inefficient listeners. A study cited by the University of Missouri has shown that immediately after listening to a 10-minute oral presentation, the average listener has heard, understood, and retained only 50% of what was said. After 48 hours, that drops another 50% for a final level of 25% listening efficiency. If you only remember 25% of what one patient says to you two days after the time of service, what are the chances you will be able to recall several different conversations with multiple patients when you are following up with them after their appointments?
What does it mean to listen?
The Chinese symbol for listening is an excellent depiction of what is required to listen well. It is comprised of the symbols for ears, eyes, mind, undivided attention, and heart – and all of these things are required to listen effectively. If even one of these elements is missing, you may also be missing the point. Some of the most common stumbling blocks to good listening correlate very closely with these elements.
|Listening for facts only Listening only for what is irrefutable and refusing to consider what is offered as opinion, speculation, or the personal feelings of the speaker will inevitably lead to missing information. Facts usually only make up a small part of what is being said. Combat this by including the speaker’s thoughts and opinions in your analysis of the problem and learn to “read between the lines.” Getting to the heart of the issue rather than just hearing the overlying objection or excuse is key to identifying the real barrier to payment|
|Being distracted by technology It is impossible to listen well while also reading a patient’s records on the computer, glancing to your ringing office phone, or – maybe worst of all – checking your cell phone. With so many different things fighting for our attention it can be difficult to focus on the patient in front of you. When you commit to a conversation, focus all of your attention there. Nothing turns people off like a mid-conversation interruption, especially if a patient is voicing concerns about their appointment or their financial responsibility and is looking to you as a resource for help.|
Judging the speaker prematurely We may reject a patient before they have even uttered a word, based merely only what they look like. Judging the patient who is explaining why she can’t pay her co-pay while digging through her designer bag can quickly build a wall that blocks the meaning of her words. Remember that everyone has a story – that patient could have received the bag as a gift. There are often conflicting mindsets surrounding collecting from patients: “I work very hard and live within my means so I can pay my bills, and everyone else should too,” versus “I’ve been in a situation before where I was unable to pay my bills and I understand how that feels.” Try to recognize which mindset you have and to bridge the gap back to the patient’s perspective. Need some help changing your mindset about patient collections?
|There are two potential stumbling blocks when it comes to paying attention to a speaker. Daydreaming, or filling extra listening time with our own thoughts will inevitably lead to missing information. Alternatively, writing down everything a speaker says in an effort to capture everything can be just as distracting. Note-taking can be helpful unless you are attempting to write down every word, in which case your focus shifts from the speaker’s words to the activity of writing and listening suffers. Taking good notes about a conversation with a patient is an excellent practice, but try to wait until you are finished speaking with the patient to notate their file.|
|Reacting emotionally to what is being said Anger or highly emotional reactions come about when we concentrate on the words and their relation to ourselves rather than on what is causing the speaker to become so emotional. Self-focus instead of speaker-focus detracts from good listening. Patients often become defensive when discussing their responsibility, and if you give in and respond in anger, not only is it unprofessional, but you have considerably decreased your chances of collecting payment in full and have created an agitation in yourself that will affect your subsequent patient interactions.|
Good listening brings its own rewards. Not only will you connect better with the patient and create a better experience for them, it can also help you discover what the patient is really thinking and provides clues for you to use for receiving payment in full. There are a few actionable guidelines you can follow to improve your listening skills. To get these guidelines, simply click the button below.
Written by Ali Bechtel, Digital Marketing Manager
This information is not intended to be legal advice and may not be used as legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. Every effort has been made to assure this information is up-to-date as of the date of publication. It is not intended to be a full and exhaustive explanation of the law in any area, nor should it be used to replace the advice of your own legal counsel.