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The ultimate guide to answering new patient messages

patient messaging Dec 09, 2021

Today we're looking into best practices for responding to messages from potential new patients. And by "messages" we mean emails, SMS as well as live chat across all forms of digital messaging through social media & apps like WhatsApp, WeChat, Instagram, Facebook, Google My Business, Youtube - basically everything that's coming into the clinic in written form.

We are going to share with you exactly what to say, when to say it, in what order and share the data on why top clinics do not try to book new patients through messages but through phone calls instead.

Go here to download the checklist and sample questions for your team to have printed out when they answer messages:

The reason why many clinics have a lot of messages but a small number who actually go ahead to book treatment:

Primary Objective: get the new patient enquiry onto a 5-10 min discovery call

Why?

Our 2021 clinic data shows that:

From message to treatment, the average conversion is 11.16%

From call to treatment, the average conversion is 31.12%

So, by getting the potential patient on the phone, you improve your odds by basically 20%. That's the fact. I would put it down to that it's hard for the patient to really understand the value you provide behind the prices you charge simply from written words alone. They need understanding & empathy, then to hear to answer all their "hidden" obstacles - most of which you'd never hear them opening up to in a message format. 

Without this, you'll be too easily and possibly unfairly compared with other clinics out there.

That's why I encourage all clinics to push the patients to phone first and have messages (live chat, SMS, WhatsApp, email etc) as the backup option (i.e. phone number visible everywhere, rather than buttons to "send us a message")

There is a slight workaround here however but I'd only advise it if you have a large flow on incoming messages, and that would be to use a "discovery form" which would ask a series of questions to qualify the patient / prove your authority beforehand.

Let's move on to the 10 steps of the new patient messaging sequence script:

Responding to the initial patient message

(10-15 seconds)

“Hi <<name>>!”

1. Simply greet the potential patient by using their name, to indicate that you acknowledge the beginning of the conversation very simply like this:

 “Thank you for taking the time to contact <<clinic name>> today! "

2. Get rapport with the potential patient immediately with an enthusiastic, positive, elegant response.

"My name is <<name>> and I am the <<position>> at <<clinic name>>”

3. Establish authority by saying your name, your role in the clinic, the name of the clinic. There are a couple of reasons why this is important. Firstly your want to demonstrate that you are taking professional authority of the messaging sequence with them and that you're not a chatbot or pre-programmed automated messaging sequence. Secondly, if this is a request from an existing patient, you want to answer or redirect it appropriately to the responsible doctor or patient manager. 

  •  New patient: Add to the new patient scoresheet
  • Existing patient: Answer or Direct to patient manager/doctor

Treatment Talk

(1-2 minutes)

 “I see that you are inquiring about <<exact words that they said>>? or "what can I help you with exactly?”

4. Transition treatment talk as soon as you can. This is the potential patient writing to you about their situation and you ONLY asking questions, not giving any advice. Here we are aiming to help that patient feel understood as much as possible to gain the maximum level of trust. There are a number of ways to do this as you will see in the next points. 

“Yes we have a lot of people contacting us about X”

5. Label this new patient message with the treatment/problem it applies to both verbally using this sentence and in your notes if possible for later analysis.

“So you’re looking to solve the pain / feel better/ more attractive / more confident / eat better through <<possible solution>>?”

6. Clarify the patients’ goals and expectations. This deepens the feeling that you understand them. Work on this until you hear a "yes" from the patient - signalling that they really do feel understood. By this point, you would have set yourself apart from the majority of other clinics out there. When the patient feels understood, recommend your clinic - even if you're not the right fit for them. 

“May I just ask quickly - how long have you been dealing with this?” 

And / or: “What have you done about it so far?” (for example...visited another dentist, looked online for info, done nothing, asked a friend etc)

“How did that work out?”

“What did that clinic/person advise you?” 

 7. Past Overview. An important part of understanding the position of the potential patient, discovering if they are a suitable fit, and increasing your chances of booking them if they are in finding out what they've done and who they've spoken to about this in the past.

Read their answer to these questions carefully as you overview their past so that you can respond positively:

“Great!”

or with empathy:

“I completely understand.”

Reinforce Authority

  1. Curiosity creation
  2. Call NOW
    • Not possible? - schedule call 
  3. Send follow-up

Add End Of Day Metric: # of new patient messages today:

 

What about using chatbots & autoresponders in a dental or medical practice?

Don't get us wrong, AFTER the trust level of the patient has already been built in your clinic, automated messaging can certainly be a great help with reserving standard appointments, confirmations, OR answering basic queries when your clinic is closed. For more best practices on automated messaging, see our article "a patient manager bot for your clinic"

But when it comes to potential new patient enquiries, the top-performing clinics around the world answer all their messages:

  • quickly 
  • elegantly
  • professionally
  • personally
  • in a scripted, conversational manner

but most importantly, with the sole objective of turning that patient message into a phone conversation as soon as possible.  

Let's cover the rest of the above "best practices" for handling incoming messages:

Answer quickly:

best-in-class response times … in minutes, if not seconds.

Answer elegantly

(with unique style & personality)

Answer professionally

(in accordance with the law & culture)

Answer personally

(NOT a chatbot)

Answer in a scripted, conversational manner

Systemize - don’t automize.

Patients don’t book because of a script or template

They book because you took the trouble to care.

(No templated responses) 

The Checklist:

CLINIC BOOST MESSAGING CHECKLIST

Objective: get onto a 5-10 min discovery call

  1. Greet (your name, name of clinic)
  2. Rapport (enthusiastic, positive)
  3. NEW / EXISTING Patient?
    • New? add to spreadsheet
    • Existing? Direct to patient manager/doctor
  4. Transition to treatment ASAP
  5. Label with treatment/problem
  6. Clarify patients’ goals
  7. Past overview
  8. Reinforce Authority
  9. Curiosity creation
  10. Call NOW
    • Not possible? - schedule call 
  11. Send follow-up

Add End Of Day Metric: # of new patient messages today:

Example sentences to be used:

Example Message Conversation:

  1. “Hi <<name>>!” (Greet)
  2. “Thank you for taking the time to contact <<clinic name>> today! (rapport)
  3. My name is <<name>> and I am the <<position>> at <<clinic name>>” (gain authority, proving you are not a chatbot, determine if they are an existing or new patient) 
  4. “I see that you are inquiring about <<exact words that they said>>?” (transition to treatment ASAP)
  5. “Yes we have a lot of people contacting us about that” (label in your spreadsheet and acknowledge their case) 
  6. “So you’re looking to solve the pain / feel better/ more attractive / more confident / eat better through <<possible solution>>?” (showing that you understand them, clarify goals - listen for a YES or clarification from the potential patient)
  7. “May I just ask quickly - how long have you been dealing with this?” 

And / or: “What have you done about it so far?” (for example...visited another dentist, looked online for info, done nothing, asked a friend etc)

“How did that work out?”

“What did that clinic/person advise you?” (read carefully as you overview their past so that you can respond positively: “Great!” or with empathy: “I completely understand.”)

  1. “Yes - we (or Drs name) work with a lot of patients in a similar situation” (reinforce expertise)
  2. “I’d like to <<repeat to them exactly what they want to know>>” (create curiosity)
  3. Would it be ok if I call you to discuss more? (call on the messaging app or ask for their number)

10a. YES?  call them - use our the discovery call script.

10b. NO? “No worries. Feel free to book time directly on my calendar <<calendar schedule link>> at a time that works best for you. If you don't see anything that works, or give me a call at <<your number / this number>> and I'll be happy to discuss this further.”

10c. No call booked within 48hrs? Send follow up message: “I see you didn’t schedule a call, everything good?” x1

(this is the latest, tested, highest performing script from the clinics that the various variants through the clinicboostmethod.com)

Using a Chatbot to respond to patient messages?

The personalized, human connection remains the single most important element of the experience in the success of top clinics according to our research.

It was the case for Amazon as well, which used chatbots and automated systems for years before returning to a basic form of chatbot that quickly figures out what you need help with then connects you immediately with a human within 30 seconds if you need more help - any time of day.

This is their response to providing the highest level of customer service that they can, to secure their future as one of the worlds most successful companies.

That's why some worlds most respected clinics & doctors ensure that their potential patients have access to their team at any time, for any need. They continue to evolve their patient journey to incorporate digital enhancements and systems that are not automated but instead powered by people, to strengthen the conversion of patient enquiries that move onto paid treatment sessions, and to ensure their patient expectations are met and exceeded every day.

Have a chatbot function on your website, but alongside that, consider this as well:

1. Prefer to talk to someone over the phone? We can call you (link).

2. To get you connected to the right person, please let us know what you need help with.

3. Tell us more: (list a small range of options here that the potential patient can choose from: asking about prices, booking an appointment, treatment advice or something else, 

4. Talk with <<name of clinic>>:

Enter your number and click Call Me Now. (You'll need an open phone line.)
We'll call you and connect you to our front desk team.

Welcome to the Clinic Boost Method where we collect, share & help you put into action the "best practices" of highly profitable, clinics of excellence.

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