Converting Patient Phone Leads

Generating patient interest and leads for a medical practice can be challenging. You set a budget, develop the message, perfect copy, design the graphics, and advertise on channels where your audience can be found. The end goal, of course, is to drive awareness and get the patients who see the advertisement to contact your medical practice.

But then what?

If the patient contacts your practice online (via lead form or email), time is on your side. Prior to following up with the patient lead, your team can use the information provided on the lead form to prepare ahead of time by collecting the information needed to answer all of the patient’s questions and concerns.

But what if the patient contacts your practice by phone? Does your staff know how to think, act and respond (in real-time) in a way that will put your practice in the best position to schedule the prospective patient?

The way an administrative staff handles inbound patient calls can make or break a medical practice. At Kospath, we’ve worked with many practices to strengthen their administrative staff’s inbound communication skills and increase their conversation rates.

This eBook includes many of the areas we focus on to help practices more effectively handle patient calls and book more appointments. We hope these lessons and guidelines will make a difference for your practice as well.

Mastering Effective Communication


When it comes to converting new patients, effective communication is where everything begins.

But what is considered ‘effective’? After all, we speak on the phone with friends and family every day – so how do the communication skills we use in a social setting differ from the communication skills we need in a business setting?

Through our experiences managing sales and marketing teams over the last 10 years, we’ve identified three core competencies that, once mastered, lead to effective communication with prospective patients. These competencies are:

  1. Listening Skills
  2. Language & Tone of Voice
  3. Phone Etiquette

In this section, we’ll dive into each one of these core competencies and share examples of how your team can incorporate them into their daily communications with prospective patients.

Listening Skills

Listening is defined as the ability to accurately receive and interpret messages during communication. And, while most people are good at receiving messages, far fewer are good at interpreting messages.

Interpreting messages is more difficult because it requires more work.

medical-marketing-ebook-radio-city-minTo accurately interpret messages a listener must be completely open minded. They must analyze each word being spoken to get the true essence of what is being said by the speaker.

For a medical practice, being open minded when speaking to patients means listening intently to understand their questions, needs, fears, concerns, and misconceptions. One small word can identify a major concern, or uncover an opportunity to learn more about the patient and how to best help them.

For example, a prospective patient might say, “I saw your TV ad and wanted to come in for a consultation”.

The passive listener would take those words at face value and reply with, “Great, how does next Wednesday at 4 o’clock work?”

On the other hand, the active listener would reply with something more thoughtful based on their interpretation of the information they just received, such as, “That’s great to hear – which advertisement did you see, more specifically? What about it caught your attention and made you want to get in touch with us, today?”

For an active listener, these questions and their corresponding answers will further build the patient relationship, and enable the practice to better serve the patient’s unique needs.

Language & Tone of Voice Checklist

Language and tone of voice play a crucial role in effective communication with patients.

The language you use carries meaning, and the way you say things make an impression. By focusing on both language and tone of voice, short phone conversations will have a long-lasting, positive effect on prospective patients.

Use the checklist on the following page to make sure you stay mindful of the keys to language and tone of voice for effective communication.

TIP: Keep these points top of mind by printing out the Language and Tone of Voice Checklist and keeping it on your desk.


Kospath’s Language & Tone of Voice Checklist

  • Be Enthusiastic and Speak Naturally
    • Callers want to feel as though they are speaking to a real human being who cares, not a robot. Try using a slightly higher pitched voice, but stay authentic. A flat voice projects you are not interested in what the caller has to say.
  • Sound Confident
    • A confident tone will instill trust in the caller.
  • Always Be Positive
    • Callers will often bring up problems and challenges they face; maintain a positive tone and use language that projects the feeling that you want to be part of a solution for them.
  • Always Be Courteous
    • Use “please” and “thank you” to communicate respect for the caller and to establish a welcoming and friendly environment at your practice.
  • Call the Prospective Patient by Their Name (Often)
    • Using a patient’s name communicates respect and shows them you feel they, and your conversation, are important.
  • Be Mindful of How You Are Stressing Words
    • The way you stress words can impact how they are received. For example, “How would you like us to help.” can be interpreted as follows based on stress:
      • Defensive: “How would you like us to help.”
      • Curious: “How would you like us to help.”
      • Apathetic: “How would you like us to help.”
  • Speak at a Controlled Volume and Speed, and Enunciate Clearly
    • Poor phone connection, background noise, and even callers for which English is a second language, are all good reasons to speak slowly and make sure you enunciate words clearly. If a patient cannot hear or understand you, there is little chance you will schedule them. 
  • Use Plain Language
    • The world of healthcare is full of both acronyms and highly-technical terms; it’s best to never assume callers know these terms as you do. Always use plain language to make sure callers understand what is being said.

Phone Etiquette

The third core competency of effective communication, phone etiquette, is about being respectful and considerate during phone conversations.

Inbound calls are a major lead source for most medical practices, so understanding how to properly behave is vital to converting prospective patients to scheduled cases.

The following are Kospath’s tried and tested phone etiquette tips for medical practices. Following these guidelines will ensure your team is always putting its best foot forward when speaking with prospective patients.

  1. Answer the Phone as Quickly as Possible

Most prospective patients will learn about your practice online, either through a search engine query or via an online review platform like Yelp or Real Self. What this means for most medical practices is the caller is just a click away from your competitor.

It’s important to eliminate all reasons why a caller might make that next click – and an unanswered phone, or phone that rings 4+ times is one of them.

  1. Never Interrupt a Caller

Always wait for callers to complete their thoughts and finish their sentences. It’s a good rule of thumb to make sure you are not making any assumptions or jumping ahead of the caller, and it’s just plain courteous.

  1. Always Ask Before Putting a Caller on Hold

There are few things more frustrating for a caller than being put on hold as soon as someone picks up the phone. If you must put a caller on hold, tell them you will be doing so, then give them an opportunity to confirm or acknowledge.

  1. Avoid Transferring a Caller at All Costs

Transferring calls is a risky proposition when dealing with an inbound lead. Long transfer times, accidental hang-ups, and inconsistent information from one employee to the next are all major points of frustration, and can easily lose you a lead – for that reason we recommend not transferring calls if at all possible.

If a transfer is absolutely necessary, tell the caller who you will be transferring them to and why, then give them an opportunity to confirm or acknowledge before your transfer.

In the case of a transfer it is also absolutely essential that you make sure the staff member you are transferring to knows the call is coming and has received the information (name, procedure interest, insurance, etc.) you’ve collected so far.

  1. Never Eat, Chew Gum, or Drink on the Phone

Your attention and focus should be on the patient. Loud eating noises are distracting, can hinder communication, and may be perceived as disrespectful.

  1. Always Hang Up After the Caller

You want callers to feel in control of the disconnect. Psychologically, it is best to wait for them to hang up first.

While effective communication is key to dealing with inbound patient leads, it’s not the only area you must focus on to be an expert at converting inbound patient phone leads.

In the next section, we’ll discuss how Situation Education can make a difference in getting you closer to accomplishing your goals as a call handler.

Situational Education

medical-marketing-ebook-3-train-minSituational Education refers to knowing what actions and information are necessary to be an effective call handler under various circumstances.

Situational education often comes over time as the result of various experiences. Below, we’ve condensed our learnings from countless calls and thousands of hours of talk time to provide you with a cheat sheet on what you need to know to be best prepared for inbound patient calls.

  1. Do not make assumptions about callers.

Never make assumptions about callers based on how they sound. Treat every caller with the same respect and service; you never know who is on the opposite end of the phone.

  1. Learn how to handle angry or abusive callers.

Working for a medical practice means you are often dealing with callers who may be sick and/or frustrated with their health. For some, frustration can sometimes lead to anger.

As a call handler for your practice, it’s important to keep your cool and always be respectful – no matter how rude or abusive a caller may be. Know how to effectively answer questions and move on, rather than arguing (which is always a losing proposition). 

  1. Have strong foundational knowledge of your practice, staff and procedures.

Know the history of your practice. Patients want to know how long you’ve been in business, and what areas of medicine you specialized in to determine if your practice is the right choice for them.

Know your team. Be prepared to answer questions about where doctors went to school, their certifications, areas of specialization, and hospital affiliations.medical-marketing-ebook-empire-state-min

The answers to these questions builds trust with callers and helps establish their confidence in the practice or doctor. To some patients, not being able to readily speak to such things will translate to a red flag.

  1. Know your practice’s advertisements and offers.

It’s important that call handlers have a working knowledge of all offers and advertisements a practice is running.

You do not want to sound confused or surprised if a patient mentions a specific advertisement or offer. Worse yet, you never want to give conflicting information.

For example, if your advertising team uses free consultants in ad copy, you should be aware of this so you do not charge patients. 

  1. Know your FAQs.

As we discussed in the Phone Etiquette portion of Mastering Effective Communication, you want to be helpful to callers and transfer inbound calls as rarely as possible. One great way to achieve these objectives is to keep a running list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) for each procedure your practice advertises.

The beauty of a FAQ sheet is it will equip you to easily and quickly answer callers’ questions – enabling you to work more efficiently.

  1. Understand when to end conversations.

Sometimes you will deal with callers who just want to chat, long after you’ve answered their questions and determined whether or not your practice can help.

Being kind and cordial is good, but if a caller just wants to chat, you must be adept at getting to the point, hitting your goals as a call handler (more on that in the next section), and ending conversations.


Maintain the Objective

Last, we have Maintain the Objective. This refers to keeping your goals in mind as you handle calls.

It’s easy to get caught up in conversations, but you must always keep in mind your goal is to convert qualified patients.

To stay on track and make sure you are always keeping your goal in mind, strive to get the following pieces of information from every caller:

  • First & Last Name
  • Phone Number
  • Email Address
  • Date of Birth
  • Insurance
  • Primary Interest (procedure)
  • Lead Source

In some cases, a call will be too brief to collect all these data points, but either way, you should always make an effort to check them all off.

Once gathered, this information about your prospective patients should be added to your practice’s records (CRM, EMR, etc.). Once this information is stored, you can use it as a reference as you continue to nurture, qualify and disqualify inbound leads.

Beyond your personal applications for this data, your practice’s marketing team can also leverage it to improve how they attract, qualify, and acquire patients.


If converting patient leads sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is. The skills required to effectively manage and convert inbound phone leads are much different than the skills required to manage online leads or work as a receptionist or administrator.

To be great, you must have specialized skills.medical-marketing-ebook-grand-central-2-min

You must approach inbound calls as opportunities to attract new patients and deliver the exceptional care you know only your practice can provide. You must be diligent, well-versed in the nuances of your practice, and focused, otherwise your competitor is just a click or phone call away.

At best, poor lead management costs your practice patient opportunities and revenue, at worst, it can tarnish your practice’s reputation.

For these reasons, we hope you found this guide both helpful and practical.

If you are interested in learning more about how Kospath helps medical practices convert more inbound leads, please contact us. In addition to our digital marketing offering, we offer employee training and call center solutions for managed lead generation services.