It’s unfortunately a common situation that most practices have to deal with: disrespectful behavior. It’s a clinical curveball, though in this case you can’t turn to science for help. If your front desk is unprepared to get disrespect from a patient, it could have a negative effect on your practice. Here are some of the things it could lead to.
Despite who is right or wrong in the situation, if your staff escalates the situation with the patient, the patient will likely leave a bad review of your practice and spread word of their encounter to the community. Even if people can recognize the fact that the review is baseless, it will bring down your overall rating.
Low Staff Morale
Dealing with difficult patients can get your entire staff flustered. It will slowly leak into everyone’s day and the interaction will become the center of attention, distracting your staff from other, more important work. This can put your team in a bad mood and possibly even affect how they treat other, kinder patients.
This is probably one of the worst things that can happen. Even if the patient is 100% in the wrong, your employee will look bad by arguing with them. Plus, if someone in the waiting room is watching this happen, they could very well be turned off by the response from your team.
If your staff is constantly dealing with negative patients, it’s going to wear on them. Even your most talented team members will get tired of the contempt and opt for a job that will bring more joy to their day. If you have staff turnover, you can’t build a strong team environment. Patients will also notice this, which can have an effect on how they view your practice.
How to combat this
How do you deal with a patient’s disrespectful or hateful language that threatens to get in the way of the success of your practice? It all starts with having a well trained front desk that knows how to deescalate the situation while remaining calm and collected.
A common type of “problem” patient is the angry patient. Sometimes these patients are angry for reasons that have nothing to do with their experience at your practice.
It’s only natural to feel upset or become defensive when a patient directs their anger toward you. However, angry patients don’t want to be told they’re incorrect or that their behavior is not appropriate. Rather, they want to be heard.
To deal with the angry patient, you need to remain levelheaded and collected. Try taking a few deep breaths before you respond, or even leave the room for a moment. Once you feel ready, acknowledge their grievances. You do not have to admit fault, but you can apologize in a way that makes them feel more heard. Ask them how they think the matter can be resolved. For example, “I understand you’re angry about X, what can I do to help you feel understood?”
Your front desk needs to be trained on how to deal with these situations. Having an impulsive reaction and possibly getting into an argument with the patient is not a good reflection of your business.