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Chapter 11. Telephone Techniques. PowerPoint® presentation to accompany: Medical Assisting Third Edition Booth, Whicker, Wyman, Pugh, Thompson. Learning Outcomes. 11.1 Explain the importance of communication skills. 11.2 Explain how to manage incoming telephone calls.

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Powerpoint presentation to accompany medical assisting third edition booth whicker wyman pugh thompson

Chapter 11

Telephone Techniques

PowerPoint® presentation to accompany:

Medical Assisting

Third Edition

Booth, Whicker, Wyman, Pugh, Thompson

Learning outcomes
Learning Outcomes

11.1 Explain the importance of communication skills.

11.2 Explain how to manage incoming telephone calls.

11.3 Describe how the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) applies to telephone communications.

11.4 Describe the procedure for calling a new prescription or prescription renewal into a pharmacy.

Learning outcomes cont
Learning Outcomes (cont.)

11.5 Compare the types of calls the medical assistant handles with those the physician or other staff members handle.

11.6 Describe how to handle various types of incoming calls from patients and from others.

11.7 Discuss the importance of proper telephone etiquette.

11.8 Describe the procedures for taking telephone messages.

Learning outcomes cont1
Learning Outcomes (cont.)

11.9 Explain how to retrieve calls from an answering service.

11.10 Describe the procedures for placing outgoing calls.

11.11 Explain the function of telephone triage in the medical office.

11.12 Explain the uses of a facsimile machine in a medical office.


  • Telephone calls must be professionally and effectively handled

  • Telephone etiquette

    • Common courtesy

    • Proper pronunciation, tone, and enunciation

  • How to handle difficult situations and complaints

  • How to document messages

Using the telephone effectively
Using the Telephone Effectively

  • The medical assistant may be the first contact a patient has

    • Ensure that you leave a positive impression

    • Show concern

    • Sound professional and knowledgeable

  • Proper telephone management

    • Keeps patients informed

    • Ensures patient satisfaction

Using the telephone effectively cont
Using the Telephone Effectively(cont.)

  • Good telephone techniques leave the patient with a positive impression of

    • You

    • The physician

    • The practice

Good telephone management shows that the staff is

Poor telephone management results in

  • Caring

  • Attentive

  • Helpful

  • Bad feelings

  • Misunderstanding

  • Unfavorable impressions

Apply your knowledge
Apply Your Knowledge

What two things does proper telephone management do?

ANSWER: Proper telephone management keeps patients informed and ensures patient satisfaction.

Good Job!

Communication skills
Communication Skills

  • Using tact and sensitivity

  • Showing empathy

  • Giving respect

  • Being genuine

Communication skills cont
Communication Skills (cont.)

  • Displaying openness and friendliness

  • Refraining from passing judgment or stereotyping

  • Being supportive

  • Asking for clarification and feedback

Communication skills cont1
Communication Skills (cont.)

  • Paraphrasing to ensure understanding

  • Being receptive to the patient’s needs

  • Knowing when to speak and when to listen

  • Being willing to consider other viewpoints

Communication skills cont2
Communication Skills (cont.)




The 5 Cs





Apply your knowledge1
Apply Your Knowledge

What are the 5 Cs of communication and what does each mean?

  • ANSWER: The 5 Cs of communication are:

  • Completeness – the message must contain all needed information

  • Clarity – it should be legible and free from ambiguity

  • Conciseness – it should be brief and direct

  • Courtesy – it should be respectful and considerate

  • Cohesiveness – it should be organized and logical


Managing incoming calls guidelines
Managing Incoming Calls:Guidelines

  • Answer calls promptly

  • Be able to take a message

  • Greet the caller with the medical office name and your name

  • Identify the caller and demonstrate a willingness to assist him or her

    • If the caller does not give his or her name, ask for it

Managing incoming calls guidelines cont
Managing Incoming Calls:Guidelines (cont.)

  • Be courteous, calm, and pleasant

  • Identify the nature of the call

  • Use the caller’s name when saying goodbye at the end of the call

  • Comply with HIPAA guidelines for confidentiality of patient information

Managing incoming calls screening calls
Managing Incoming Calls: Screening Calls

  • Tips

    • Find out who is calling

    • Ask what the call is in reference to

      • Helps to determine who can handle the call

    • Decide whether to put the call through

      • Do not put through callers who refuse to identify themselves

    • Determine what to do if the call is personal

Managing incoming calls routing calls

1)Administrative Issues

3)Clinical Issues

2) Emergency Calls

Managing Incoming Calls: Routing Calls

  • Follow the office policy to determine calls that should be

    • Put through immediately

    • Returned returned later

    • Handled by another staffmember other than the physician

Generally, three types of calls are received in the office:

Managing incoming calls routing calls cont

Calls handled by the medical assistant


Billing inquiries

Insurance questions

Diagnostic reports (lab and x-ray)

General administrative questions

Reports from hospitals and patients

Referral requests

Prescription renewals (if previously approved by the physician)

Patient complaints regarding administrative issues

Managing Incoming Calls: Routing Calls (cont.)

Managing incoming calls routing calls cont1
Managing Incoming Calls: Routing Calls (cont.)

  • Calls requiring the doctor’s attention

    • Emergency calls

    • Calls from other physicians

    • Patient requests regarding test results

    • Patient requests to discuss their symptoms

    • Requests for prescription renewals

    • Personal calls

A routing list specifies who is responsible for handling certain types of calls.

Apply your knowledge2
Apply Your Knowledge

The medical assistant is just returning from lunch, and the office telephone is ringing. When the medical assistant answers, the caller interrupts her greeting and says, “No, do not put me on hold again, I have been on hold for 10 minutes!” How should the medical assistant respond to this caller?

ANSWER: The medical assistant should remain calm, allow the caller to express his or her concerns, apologize for any inconvenience, and inform the caller that you would like to help. The MA should not attempt to shift the blame by telling the caller that he or she was just returning from lunch and instead should put effort into assisting the caller.

Very Good!

Types of incoming calls1
Types of Incoming Calls:



  • Must be routed to the physician immediately

  • Includes serious or life-threatening conditions such as

  • Severe bleeding

  • Drug reaction

  • Injuries

  • Poisoning

  • Suicide attempts

  • Severe burns

  • Loss of consciousness


Types of incoming calls cont1
Types of Incoming Calls(cont.)

  • Never use office phone for personal calls

    • Limit cell phone use to essential calls only

  • HIPAA and confidentiality apply to telephone calls

  • Attorneys

    • Follow office guidelines carefully

    • Never release any patient information unless the physician authorizes you to do so

Types of incoming calls cont2
Types of Incoming Calls(cont.)

  • Other physicians

    • Route calls to the physician

    • Do not disclose any patient information

  • Salespeople

    • Request that information be mailed to you about new products

    • Pharmaceutical representatives may be seen by the physician

Apply your knowledge3
Apply Your Knowledge

A medical assistant working in a large medical/surgical practice answers the telephone. The caller states “Hi, I’m Dr. X., did Dr. C. perform Mrs. A. W.’s surgery yesterday?” How should the medical assistant respond?

ANSWER: The medical assistant should request that Dr. X hold to speak with the physician. You may not disclose any information concerning a patient, including whether or not patient A.W had surgery, even to a physician. In addition, this may not really be Dr. X.


Using proper telephone etiquette
Using Proper Telephone Etiquette

  • Customer service is critical

  • Use your telephone voice

    • Speak directly into the receiver

    • Be friendly; convey interest and respect

    • Use non-technical language, but never use slang

    • Use a normal tone, but attempt to vary your pitch

      • Pitch is the high and low level of your speech

    • Make the caller feel important!

Using proper telephone etiquette cont



  • Positive

  • Respectful


  • Saying words in a clear and understandable manner

  • Eating, chewing gum, and incorrect placement of the phone interfere with enunciation

Using Proper Telephone Etiquette(cont.)

Telephone etiquette making a good impression
Telephone Etiquette: Making a Good Impression

  • Project an attitude of helpfulness

  • Always refer to the caller by name

  • Thank the caller before hanging up

Exhibiting courtesy

  • Give the caller the same level of attention as if he or she were right in front of you

  • Listen attentively to get accurate information

Giving undivided


Putting a call on hold

  • Always allow the caller to state the purpose of the call prior to placing the caller on hold

  • If the wait will be lengthy, offer to call back instead of placing the caller on hold

  • Return to the caller at 2-minute intervals

Powerpoint presentation to accompany medical assisting third edition booth whicker wyman pugh thompson

Telephone Etiquette: Making a Good Impression

  • Handling difficult situations

    • If the call is not an emergency, and you are in the middle of an urgent situation, offer to return the call

  • Remembering patient names

    • Using the caller’s name during a conversation makes the caller feel important

  • Checking for understanding

    • Ask questions to ensure that the caller understands what you have discussed and that you understood the caller.

Powerpoint presentation to accompany medical assisting third edition booth whicker wyman pugh thompson

Telephone Etiquette: Making a Good Impression

  • Communicating feelings

    • Try to communicate an understanding of the caller’s feelings (empathy)

    • Callers tend to have a better perception of the office if empathy is communicated

  • Ending the conversation

    • Summarize important points

    • Thank the caller for calling (use the caller’s name)

    • Allow the caller to hang up first

Apply your knowledge4
Apply Your Knowledge

What should you do when you have to place a caller on hold?

ANSWER: When a caller has to be placed on hold, first ask the purpose of the call. Then tell the caller why you need to place him or her on hold and how long the wait will be. Check with the caller at frequent (2-minute) intervals. Offer to call back if the wait will be lengthy.

Super Answer!

Taking messages
Taking Messages

  • Documenting calls

    • Protects the physician against legal action

    • Document in the patient record

      • Clinical issues

      • Referrals

    • Messages must be accurate and legible

Taking messages cont
Taking Messages (cont.)

Contents of a Telephone Message Pad


Date_________________ Time______________



Telephone ( )__________________extension________

Message Details:

Your name or initials

Always keep a pen and paper near the telephone so you are prepared to record the message.

Taking messages telephone logs
Taking Messages: Telephone Logs

  • Manual

    • Spiral-bound, perforated message book

    • Top copy or original is given to the message recipient and a copy is kept in the book

  • Electronic

    • Message is keyed in as it is received

    • Copy can be saved, printed out, or e-mailed

Taking messages tips
Taking Messages: Tips

  • Keep pen/pencil on hand

  • Take notes as information is given

  • Verify spelling

  • Verify callback number

  • Do not make a commitment on behalf of someone else

Taking messages cont1


Taking Messages (cont.)

  • Ensuring correct information

    • Get the correct spelling of the caller’s name

    • If you have to pull the patient record, ask for date of birth

    • Repeat key points for verification

  • Maintaining patient confidentiality

    • Do not repeat any confidential information over the telephone

    • Maintain confidentiality with written messages

Apply your knowledge5
Apply Your Knowledge





Date of birth



Answer True or False to the following:

___ Documenting calls can protect against legal actions.

___ Confidentiality is just as important when making telephone calls as in written communication.

___ You should ask for the patient’s SSN if you have to pull his/her record.

___ You should repeat key points to verify information.

Telephone answering systems
Telephone Answering Systems

  • Single telephone or complex multiline systems

  • Common equipment and services used in the medical office

    • Automated voice mail

    • Answering machine

    • Answering service

Telephone answering systems cont
Telephone Answering Systems(cont.)

  • Retrieving messages from answering service

    • Set a regular schedule and call at scheduled times

    • Identify yourself and the practice name

    • Write down all pertinent information on telephone log

    • Repeat the information to verify

    • Route messages per office policy

Apply your knowledge6
Apply Your Knowledge

What steps should you take to retrieve messages from an answering service?

  • ANSWER: To retrieve messages from an answering service you should

  • Set a regular schedule and call at scheduled times

  • Identify yourself and the practice name

  • Write down all pertinent information on telephone log

  • Repeat the information to verify

  • Route messages per office policy


Placing outgoing calls
Placing Outgoing Calls

  • Locating telephone numbers

    • Patient record

    • Office file of commonly used numbers

    • Telephone directory, directory assistance, or the Internet

      • A fee is charged for directory assistance

Placing outgoing calls cont
Placing Outgoing Calls (cont.)

  • Applying your telephone skills

    • Plan before you call

    • Double-check the phone number

    • Allow time for the person to answer

    • Identify yourself

    • Ask if the time is convenient

    • Be ready to speak when the person answers

    • Be sure the person has paper and pencil if you are giving information

Placing outgoing calls cont1
Placing Outgoing Calls (cont.)

  • Arranging conference calls

    • Calls between several people at different locations

    • Remember the different time zones

    • Suggest several time slots as options

Apply your knowledge7
Apply Your Knowledge

The medical assistant has been informed that the office physician and the consulting physician must speak with the daughter of an unresponsive patient recently diagnosed with a terminal condition. The daughter resides out of town. What would you do in this situation?

ANSWER: This situation requires that three parties be able to communicate at the same time to each other. Setting up a conference call would be most plausible.


  • r

Telephone triage
Telephone Triage

Telephone triage is used as a process of deciding what action to take

Learning the Triage Process

  • Telephone staff are given guidelines to handle common conditions

  • Telephone staff must determine whether caller requires additional care

  • Telephone staff cannot diagnose or treat

  • Specific information must be obtained, such as name, age, symptoms, and anxiety

Telephone triage cont
Telephone Triage (cont.)

Level of Severity

Categorizing the Problem

  • Manage by telephone

  • Manage in office

  • Send patient to emergency care facility

  • Advise the caller that the recommendations are based on the symptoms and are not a diagnosis

  • Have the caller repeat instructions you give

  • Instruct the patient to call back if symptoms worsen

  • Document critical elements of the conversation

Telephone triage cont1
Telephone Triage(cont.)

Taking Action

  • Clinical triage – based on office guidelines

    • Determine extent of problem (Is this an emergency?)

    • Decide on appropriate action

  • Telephone situations must be handled correctly to protect the health and safety of the patient.

Apply your knowledge8


Apply Your Knowledge

What is telephone triage and what does it entail?

ANSWER: Telephone triage is a process used to decide what action to take when a patient calls the office with a clinical problem. Telephone staff use office guidelines to determine a course of action based on the of the level of severity of the problem.

Telecommunications and faxes
Telecommunications and Faxes

  • Automated telephone system

    • Recorded voice identifies department or services

    • Numbered choices

  • Facsimile (fax) machines

    • HIPAA guidelines must be followed for patient confidentiality

    • Fax machine should be located in secure location

Apply your knowledge9
Apply Your Knowledge

As you escort Mr. James to the exam room, you notice that a repairman is looking at a document on the fax machine. What should you do?

ANSWER: You should ask Mr. James to wait where he is and excuse yourself to deal with the repairman. Tactfully tell the repairman that he should not be reading the information on the fax machine. You should also suggest to the office manager that the fax machine be moved to a less accessible location.


In summary
In Summary











Powerpoint presentation to accompany medical assisting third edition booth whicker wyman pugh thompson

End of Chapter 11

When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.

~ Ernest Hemmingway