ARTICLE: Angry Patients

Reducing Patient Complaints

Most Administrators and Practice Managers I meet tell me their front office staff does a pretty good job serving their patients. They say they are professional, caring and hard working. But those same Administrators and Practice Managers often admit their staff struggles when they encounter angry patients. And these patients complain the loudest and create the most stress for the front office staff! 

So, what can Administrators and Practice Managers do to help their staff better “manage” angry patients?

Step #1: Let the staff know that these challenges with angry patients are going to happen and it’s not the staff’s fault. Letting them know that management supports them will greatly lower their stress level.

Step #2: In the next staff meeting ask them to take 10 minutes to list those issues that get patients angry. This could include issues around checking in, appointments, billing and checking out. Once the list of issues has been created, encourage the staff to rank order them from “most to least serious.” 

Step #3: Take the issue they ranked “most serious” and ask the staff to develop a written script and strategy for handling an angry patient when this issue occurs. Once they have the script, make copies and distribute a copy to every front office staff member. 

This will not eliminate angry patients, but it will give your front office staff a better chance to successfully “managing” them when they happen.   

Clarence L. Fisher, Jr.

Medical Service Training Group 


Being Proactive With Angry Patients

Being Proactive With Angry Patients

ARTICLE: Patient Service Levels

What's your patient service level?

 I realized recently that I spend a lot of time in and around medical practices...both professionally and personally.  As a patient service trainer, it’s my job to work with dozens of medical staff members and practices all across the United States.  And as a card-carrying member of AARP, I now personally visit my healthcare providers on a regular basis. 

With all of these encounters with healthcare staff members at all levels, I have discovered that patient service varies widely from practice to practice.  From just the bare minimum patient service all the way to world-class patient service.  

Listed below are the four levels of patient service I have identified:

Level #1: POOR... This level of service is not good enough to pass as “service.”  Patients are very unhappy with this level of patient service and take their anger out on the staff or post nasty complains on social media.    If this poor level of service continues, some patients will look for other healthcare providers.  

Level #2: GOOD... This level of service is the basic level expected by the patient. It’s nothing special but is perceived by patients as meeting their minimum level of patient service.  Good patient service includes some  staff effort to connect on a personal basis with the patient. 

Level #3: GREAT... This is a big jump from Good patient service. At this level the patient views the service as an unexpected bonus and added benefit.  Great Patient Service goes above and beyond what patients expect. The staff takes extra steps to demonstrate that they understand what the patient is going through and that they genuinely want to give the patient the best experience possible.


Level #4: GAMECHANGER... This level of service sets the industry benchmark for outstanding service. Your staff members are viewed as rock stars and outside medical professionals visit your practice to see what they can learn or steal from your patient service approach.  

So, what level of patient service does your staff provide?   Not sure?  Well I have a great tool to help you assess your staff's level of patient service.  It's quick and easy to use and the best part... it's free!  Just go to my store and order a free copy of my "Patient Service Self-Assessment Questionnaire."  I'll email you a copy free... no hassle and no obligation. 

Clarence L. Fisher, Jr.

Medical Service Training Group 



ARTICLE: grouch

Grouches Give Lousy Patient Service

What's a Grouch?  That's a curmudgeon member of the staff that just creates stress and anxiety for everyone.  They are cold and indifferent with your patients, hostile with almost every staff member and are even aloof with the physicians.  Most medical practices have at least one Grouch on their staff. 


So why doesn't the practice fire the Grouch?  Well, despite being combative with everyone, they are often dependable and effective in performing their basic job.  And in this tough employment environment, most practices believe it's better to have a dependable Grouch than someone that is friendly but incompetent.  

Want to know if your practice has a Grouch?  That's easy to do.  Go check the Yelp and Facebook comments your patients have posted about your practice!  You'll be shocked at some of the things they've said about your Grouch and your practice.  

Clarence Fisher

Medical Service Training Group 


Got a practice "grouch?"

Got a practice "grouch?"


Fight In Your Lobby!

 Has this ever happened in your lobby? A patient gets agitated because his appointment is delayed. He starts loudly arguing with your staff about the delay. His voice gets so loud that everyone in the lobby can hear his angry complaints. As your front office staff struggles to respond to the patient, a senior staff member steps forward, has a brief conversation with the patient and escorts him into a side office. A few minutes later they emerge, and the patient quietly returns to his seat in your lobby. Mission accomplished...crisis avoided. 

In today’s contentious environment, most healthcare providers have experienced this situation. Disruptive patients are becoming more frequent and more frightening every day. In fact, these incidents have become so common placed they are now viewed as part of the daily work routine. 

But what would have happened if your senior staff member was not there to step in? What if they’re at lunch or on vacation that day? Who else on your staff has the skill and training needed to deescalate this disruptive incident before it becomes a major crisis? 

Here are two critical steps you should take now just in case your senior staff member is not around to handle your next angry patient: 

1. Get Your Staff Ready. Hey, you know that eventually an angry patient is going to be disruptive so take a few minutes with your staff to discuss what they should do if that happens. Talk about past incidents and discuss steps they should and should not take if it happens again.  

2. Conduct Fire Drills. In school we learn what to do in case of a fire by conducting fire drills. So why not conduct “angry patient” drills with your staff. Identify a situation that angers a patient and have your staff walk through what they would do and say to de escalate and defuse the patient’s anger. 

The best technique for handling angry disruptive patients is to be prepared. 

Clarence L. Fisher, Jr.
Medical Service Training Group  


Handling Fights in the Lobby!

Handling Fights in the Lobby!

Article: Biggest Fears

Staff's Biggest Fears

What’s your biggest fear? Clowns...Roller Coasters... Snakes... Spiders... an IRS Audit!  My biggest fear is heights! 

But if you ask your staff members to name their biggest fear, you’ll discover that their biggest fear is being confronted by an aggressive disruptive patient! They feel the least prepared to deal with this frightening situation. 

Although this is a major issue today in the industry, most healthcare providers rarely talk about this threat. As if not talking about it will somehow make it go away. In fact, most healthcare providers are reluctant to even openly discuss disruptive patient incidents for fear of creating more staff stress and panic.

Unfortunately, in today’s combative environment, the chances of your staff encountering an angry disruptive patient are very high. So, ignoring it is no longer an option. It’s impossible to eliminate disruptive patients but you can better prepare your staff to manage and survive it when it happens.

Clarence L. Fisher, Jr.

Medical Service Training Group 


Overcoming their worst fears

Overcoming their worst fears

ARTICLE: Disruptive Patient

Disruptive Patients Service Actions

Although the vast majority of your medical staff’s encounters with patients are routine, some can be frightening and stressful. Unfortunately, in today’s combative environment disruptive patients are becoming more frequent and more frightening.

There are lots of reasons patients are disruptive but regardless of the cause, your medical staff must be prepared to deal with it swiftly and effectively.

One of your primary responsibilities today as a healthcare manager is preparing your staff for their next encounter with a disruptive patient. Here are the 5 “critical actions” you should take to prepare them:

1. Clearly define what specific behaviors constitute as “disruptive patient behavior.”

2.Train your staff how to identify if the patient is “dangerous.”

3. Train your staff how to de-escalate the patient’s anger. 

4. Establish procedures for removing the patient from the facility.

5. Document and debrief every major disruptive patient encounter.

No matter what you do, you can’t avoid disruptive patients, but you can better prepare your staff to handle these frightening and stressful incidents. 

Clarence Fisher

Medical Service Training

Preparation is the best defense

Preparation is the best defense

Article: Telephone Patient Service

Failure To Communicate


As a card-carrying US Army veteran, I love the medical service I get from the Veterans Administration... but I absolutely hate their telephone service. If you can call their phone process “service!” In fact, I believe most of the complaints about the VA starts with their lousy telephone service. 

When I call the Veterans Administration, I am greeted with an answering machine that provides a long laundry list of telephone options (99% have nothing to do with what I need) and eventually I’ll get a live dispassionate staff person whose only job is to transfer me to somebody else. And as I am waiting on hold the second time, I am entertained by some annoying music that is interrupted periodically by a recorded voice telling me how important I am to the VA! 

Sure, the VA’s “automated” telephone service is annoying, but the real service problem is the dispassionate staff person that finally answers my call! After enduring the telephone gauntlet, the last thing you want is a staff member that just wants to get you off the phone. 

Providing good patient service over the telephone comes with a few extra challenges. Since the patient can’t see the person on the other end of the phone, any language or cultural differences are magnified over the telephone. Here are two things your staff can do to improve their telephone patient service...

1. Your staff should give every patient on the phone their undivided attention. Let’s face it, patients call because they need your staff’s help. So, your staff should treat every call as the most important call of the day... because it is to that patient!

2. Patients evaluate their level of service over the phone by the tone and words your staff uses. You staff’s should sound enthusiastic and use words that demonstrate their respect and compassionate for the patient. 

Now I know your staff’s phone service is much better than the VA... but how much better? If you would like some help improving your staff’s telephone service skills, please contact me. Bring in a veteran to make sure your telephone service is A-OK!

Clarence L. Fisher, Jr.

Medical Service Training Group

Telephone communication is critical

Telephone communication is critical


Be Nice

Wouldn’t it be great if you could get your staff to be nice to patients simply by wearing a smiley face?  Especially those members of your staff that are sometimes cold and surly with patients. 

Well that ain't happening. So, what can you do right now that will actually help your staff "be nice to your patients?"

Being nice to patients starts with your staff's understanding "Polite Words" and "Bonding Actions." By using “Polite Words” and phrases your staff can show your patients compassion and caring. “Bonding Actions” demonstrates to the patient that your staff respects and values them.  

Let’s face it, you’re not getting your staff to wear smiley faces so patient service training is your only option. 


Clarence Fisher
Medical Service Training Group 


Putting on a happy face

Putting on a happy face

Article: angry people

Being Prepared


Reality Check... A lot of people are angry today!  They are angry at government agencies, politicians, public institutions and... yes, they are even angry at healthcare providers!  But why are they angry at you?

1. They are in pain.  Medical illness is often accompanied by pain.  Anger is a common emotion in patients with pain and this anger is often focused on your medical staff.      

2. They fear the unknown.  Being sick can be an intensely destabilizing experience.  This worry can manifest as anger and can often be directed at your medical staff.    

3. They feel ignored.  Any patient who displays anger is guaranteed to attract attention. So, some patient's display of anger may actually suggest that they just feel “unheard” by your medical staff.  

4. They are angry about rising costs.  The increased burden of rising health insurance costs and copayments has really angered patients.  

Let's face it... you can't "fix" all of these patient issues... but you can take steps to better prepare your staff to effectively manage angry patients.   So, what are you doing now to make sure your staff is ready for their next angry patient incident? 

If you would like more information about how to prepare your staff for the next angry patient incident, please contact me.

Clarence L. Fisher, Jr.
Medical Service Training Group

People are angry!

People are angry!

Article: Paradigm Shift

Shifting Patient Service

 A "paradigm shift" is a fundamental change in approach or underlying assumptions. Is it time for medical practices to have a paradigm shift in how they serve their patients?

Most medical practices follow the traditional patient service model. It is designed simply to get patients checked in, treated, checked out, and get paid as efficiently as possible without drama. This patient service model has been in effect for decades. But with changing patient attitudes and expectations, is it time for medical practices to rethink this traditional patient service model?

One fundamental change medical practices should make is during the initial patient check in. Rather than focusing on the practice’s administrative needs, the front desk staff could ask more questions to determine the patient’s needs. For example, ask patients how they would prefer to make or reschedule appointments, or be reminded about appointments schedules or get their questions answered. These questions are a shift from traditional patient service questions. These questions help the staff better understand the patient so they can “tailor” the service for that specific patient. They also signal to the patient that their needs are important to the medical practice.

Most paradigm shifts start with small actions and gradually gain momentum over time. By changing the types of patient questions your staff asks during check in, you are starting to move away from the traditional patient service model. What paradigm shift has your medical practice made that has changed how you service your patients?

If you would like help changing your approach to patient service, please contact me. I can help you find innovative ways to better serve your patients.

Clarence L. Fisher, Jr.
Medical Service Training Group 



Article: Changing The Front Desk

Finding The Patient's Needs

Your front office staff plays a vital role in the operation of your practice and the care of your patients.  They have the primary responsibility for greeting your patients, confirming and documenting their appointments, collecting additional personal information, confirming insurance information and payment methods and preparing your patients for the next phase of their appointment.  No matter the practice size or speciality, all front office staffs perform these tasks... some better than others.  

But if you study these tasks carefully, there is an obvious issue... the majority of these duties are administrative and focused more on the "practice's needs" than on the "patient's needs."  Other than your staff greeting the patients when they arrive for their appointment, the rest of the administrative tasks could have been completed online before the appointment.   

So what could your front office staff do that would focus more on the patient's needs?  How could your staff drastically alter or disrupt the traditional patient check-in experience?

The easiest thing your staff can do is learn more about your patient's needs or preferences.  In other words, have your front office staff ask a few questions about how the patient wants to interact with your staff and the practice... for example:

- How would the patient prefer to make or change their appointments... online (email/ text) or by phone?

- How would the patient prefer to be reminded about appointments or get helpful (email / text) or by phone?

- How would the patient prefer to discuss billing or insurance questions... online (email / text) or schedule a phone appointment with the Billing Department?

- How would the patient prefer to be notified of an appointment delay or the need to reschedule... online (email / text) or by phone?

Each of these questions would give your front office staff an opportunity to learn more about your patient and help your staff tailor your services to the "patient's needs."  So what are you doing to make sure your services meet your "patient's needs?"  

Clarence L. Fisher, Jr.

Medical Service Training Group 


Ask "Patient Needs" Questions

Ask "Patient Needs" Questions

Article: Stranger's Stories

Patient Service Stories

As I travel around the country as a training consultant, I meet a lot of people... in airports, in restaurants, in hotels lobbies and in my favorite hangout, Starbucks. 

Often during these casual conversations with strangers, they will ask me what type of business I’m in. My usual response is that I help medical practices provide better service to their patients. And that’s when it happens... that’s when they start telling me their story about poor patient service they’ve experienced. These stories range from ongoing arguments with medical practice staff about appointment delays, all the way to loud shouting matches with the staff over being treated with respect and dignity.   

What’s so amazing about these “strangers” sharing their patient service stories with me is...they all have at least one poor patient service story and they never complement the medical practice for how they handled that patient service issue. 

Let’s face it, your staff is going to have conflicts with patients... they can’t avoid them. But they can do a better job handling those patient conflicts.  


So what poor service stories are your patients telling strangers in your neighborhood?  If you want help reducing those poor service stories and improving how your staff handles angry patients, please contact me.  

Clarence L. Fisher, Jr.
Medical Service Training Group 


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Want to hear our story?