How to Handle a Problem Patient

Most patients are easy to work with.  They call ahead for an appointment, they arrive at their scheduled time, they pay their bill on time, but there is always that one patient that defies all of the above.  On occasion, however, things can go very wrong and patients become angry, stubborn, manipulative and even abusive.  Some people are ready for confrontation while others avoid it at all costs by hiding, giving in to strong demands, or finding someone else to handle the problem.

If you communicate in ways that show you care and have empathy for the patient this could diffuse a situation or at least calm the situation down.  You could simply say that you wish you could help them but the physician’s policy is very clear in this manner.  You can also agree with the patient on principal.  Rather than go back and forth and try to prove your point, you can acknowledge that the patient has a valid point of view and you can present to the patient what you are willing or able to do.  You may say things like “I can understand how you might see it that way…”  By saying those simple words shows that you care for the patient and also validates your understanding of the complaint.

When patients continue to ask and demand what they want it is best to stay firm, talk with the patient in a calm voice, make sure that they know what you are willing and able to do.  If you keep coming up with new reasons or excuses why you can’t do something this will only prolong the situation and make it seem as though the policy can be changed in some manner. 

Keeping your tone of voice low, soothing but yet firm should help to calm a situation and help the patient to regain their composure.

Keep direct eye contact with the patient and a straight posture.  This adds to your credibility.  If the patient is standing, stand up, if the patient is sitting down, sit down.  If a patient is in the waiting room with other patients or in an area where others can hear the confrontation, move the conversation into a private office if possible, so that other patient’s or staff are not disrupted.  Ask the office manager to join you in the conversation, or it might get to the point where the physician may need to step in.  The bottom line is you want to keep the office in a peaceful state and have the ability to handle patient complaints in a professional dignified manner so not to disrupt the entire office staff and patients that are waiting to be seen.

Marina Hall is a Certified Medical Reimbursement Specialist (CMRS) and founder of MariAnn Medical Billing Service. To read a full “Interview with Marina Hall” visit her website at

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Ways To Prevent A Lawsuit

Many physicians if not all can attest to the fact that patients will complain.  It is one thing if a patient only complains about the office staff or the physician themselves; but how do you prevent a complaint into becoming a lawsuit? 

During a busy day in your practice, you may encounter patient complaints.  Sometimes the patient leaves without an answer to their problem or a remedy for their concerns, in turn they tell others about their poor treatment.  They may even report it to their insurance carrier and occasionally file a malpractice claim.

The office should have a written grievance process that provides an opportunity for the patient to reveal their problem and allow the physician the chance to remedy the grievance.  It is important for the office to post notifications for the patients to see, or you may want to give a copy to all patients that come in for a visit.  Make sure that it clearly states that the physician will review these grievances.   Another suggestion would be to have a suggestion box that is in view of patients so that they could make suggestions or complaints without having to identify themselves.  It is also important to post signage that gives patients a way to contact an office staff member, either by phone extension, email or phone if they have any complaints or concerns.  This helps to prevent these problems from escalating into something bigger.

The most common complaints are (1) prolonged wait time (2) rudeness (3) failure to communicate (4) failure to fulfill expectations from the exam (5) billing issues.

The top complaints are wait time and rudeness.  Physicians need to make sure their staff members are treating patients with respect and dignity.  The physician should also take the responsibility of how they manage their schedule as well as the office staff.  If the physician is behind in their schedule, this should be told to the patients as they arrive.  Also giving them an update on the wait time would help to ease patients and it gives them the feeling of being cared for and shows them that the office values their time as well. 

In a complaint regarding rudeness, an office manager or physician should address this issue immediately and not let it go on for a period of time hoping it will stop, it won’t, this needs to be addressed as soon as it is apparent.  Rudeness is something that is unacceptable and should never be tolerated by a physician.  Proper corrective actions towards the staff member need to be taken.

Good communication between staff members and patients along with the physician is key to a good working environment, not only for the staff but patients as well.

Marina Hall is a Certified Medical Reimbursement Specialist (CMRS) and founder of MariAnn Medical Billing Service. To read a full “Interview with Marina Hall” visit her website at

Click here to read testimonies regarding MariAnn Medical Billing Service

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Financial Mistakes Doctor’s Make

With all the day-to-day activity that goes on every day in your practice, sometimes you may lose sight of the things that can jeopardize your finances.  These are four things that can affect your practice financially. 

1.  Trusting your money with your employees

The front office is an opportunity for someone to take advantage of payments being made.  Usually there are one or two people, which are in charge of collecting payments from patients.  It is very easy for someone to accept $75.00 in cash and only claim the patient paid $30.00.  It is always good to assign two people to handle all payments, one to accept the payment and one to double-check the payment once it has been received.  One way to also help with this problem is to hire an outside billing service.  This is a good way to have a good check and balance system.  Let the employees know that there will be periodic checking on the books that is done randomly.

2.  Investing in a product

Plenty of doctor’s have been tempted to invest in a colleague’s “great” idea. This could lead to a lot of problems. Even if the idea does go well, it usually takes over 20 years to see a profit.   One notable case was when a physician invested $400,000 and lost it all.  Too many doctors fail to do any research on the product or finding out what the company’s financial status is prior to making the investment.

3.  Not having enough Malpractice insurance

It may be very tempting to take the policy with the lowest coverage and premiums to save money but in the long run it is not a good idea.  Buying a policy that has good coverage that you can afford can save you from losing your life savings if ever you are found liable in a lawsuit against you.  “Occurrence” coverage is more comprehensive than a “claims-made” policy, but that blanket protection costs a lot more.

4.  Investing in high-tech equipment

The medical community is always on the fast track for developing new and better equipment for physicians.  Some doctor’s fall into the trap of buying some of these new products without testing them, researching them or even asking other colleague’s their opinion.  Some products are very helpful and end up being worth the investment; some though can be costly and not much different from the old product.  This leaves you left with a very expensive product and not much use for it.  It is best to do your homework and decide if it is worth the money and if it will truly make a difference to your practice.

Marina Hall is a Certified Medical Reimbursement Specialist (CMRS) and founder of MariAnn Medical Billing Service. To read a full “Interview with Marina Hall” visit her website at

Click here to read testimonies regarding MariAnn Medical Billing Service

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Secrets to Boost Your Practice Profits

Secrets to Boost Your Practice Profits

Some key steps to make your practice a success are simpler than you think.  There are a few easy ways to cut costs and boost your profits.

1. Pay as little rent as possible

Besides payroll, paying rent is the biggest expense in your practice.  You don’t necessarily need a medical office building for your practice or the most luxurious location.  Consider sites such as a residential unit.  One physician bought a fourplex and he turned one of the apartments into his office and rented out the other 3 units to other medical practices.  By owning your property you don’t have to answer to anyone as to how you want to manage your space.

2.  Hire only a few employees

It’s always good to have a few good core employees.  Assign positions to each employee along with having them multitask and share responsibilities.  Have them all work as a team and back each other up when needed.  Treat these employees well because they set the tone of the office and you want them to be satisfied in their job which makes for a better work environment for everyone.

3.  Send ALL claims electronically

This should be the ONLY way to send a claim for processing.  Sending claims on a “claim form” is the old way and not efficient.  You can receive payment from some insurers within 5 working days, and few take no longer than 2 weeks.  This keeps a good flow of payments coming in.

4.  Good Service

Make sure you offer good care and service to your patients.  This keeps your patients coming back and recommending you to their friends and family.  Don’t make your patients wait.  If they do have to wait, apologize to them.  Call the next day and see how they are doing.  Also report back to them with any test results promptly.  In addition leave room for same day appointments to accommodate patients that need to be seen right away.

5.  Cultivate relationships to generate referrals

Making friends and relationships with your medical community is also a good way to generate referrals.  Consulting with them will result in more patient referrals.  As discussed before, offering good service will eventually get back to the physician that referred them and in turn this will make the physician more comfortable in referring more patients to you. 

6.  Create a Niche

Consider doing wellness medicine, which widens the scope of potential patients to include everyone. Develop a subspecialty such as geriatrics, thyroid disorders or diabetes.  Get into occupational health, offer driver’s physicals, and worker’s compensation for minor injuries, drug screening or pre-employment physicals.  Spend the money to advertise for these services and you will see your practice grow along with your profits.

Marina Hall is a Certified Medical Reimbursement Specialist (CMRS) and founder of MariAnn Medical Billing Service. To read a full “Interview with Marina Hall” visit her website at

Click here to read testimonies regarding MariAnn Medical Billing Service

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