Don't let patient e-mails hang in the balance

April 1, 2005

Your practice's library of pre-written responses to the frequently asked questions can grow over time also eliminate the chance of misinformation being given out to potential patients.

Integration and implementation start with putting in place a system for answering e-mail. While everyone in your office should be trained to use e-mail, make sure that one person is ultimately responsible to answer the practice's e-mail. For some practices, it has become necessary to have a full-time person responsible for answering, recording, and tracking these inquiries.

Wouldn't it be great if there were tools that would save time and money, as well track these e-mail inquiries?

Good news! There are several tools that you can implement to save your staff's time, provide customized information easily, and give you the ability to see if this information was received and viewed by the e-mail recipient. The first of these tools is the easiest and most readily available in the marketplace today: the auto-responder.

The auto-responder There are many times when a practice's staff simply does not have time to respond to a potential patient's inquiry, depending on the nature of the inquiry. Understandable as this may be, the practice would like to avoid alienating a potential patient by not responding in a timely manner. The e-mail auto-responder was created with exactly this scenario in mind.

The auto-responder sends a pre-written response to each incoming e-mail, informing the sender that the inquiry has been received and will be addressed. The practice can determine what information to provide in this auto-response.

This information may be as general as the information you provide in your practice's brochure. Pre-written messages save your staff time and are significantly less expensive than sending the brochure through the postal service.

Some auto-responses can work with your Web site forms. If specific information is requested, the auto-responder will send out the requested information automatically.

The FAQ responder The second tool to implement in an efficient e-mail inquiry program is the frequently asked question (FAQ) response system. The FAQ responder is a feature similar to the auto-responder in that it uses pre-written responses. Unlike the auto-responder, however, it requires someone in the practice to look at each e-mail and determine which pre-written response applies to the question being asked.

Here is how it works: First the practice determines which questions are being asked via e-mail on a continual basis; standard responses are then written for each of these questions. When the employee responsible for answering e-mail inquiries reads the day's e-mails, he or she simply decides which of those e-mails can be answered by the standard responses and which will need more personalized attention.

Your practice's library of pre-written responses to the frequently asked questions can grow over time and can be updated as needed. Pre-written responses also eliminate the chance of misinformation being given out to potential patients by staff members.

Using this system saves countless hours of time that would have otherwise been spent rewriting the same e-mail response.

The newsletter builder One of the easiest ways to market your practice as well as provide information to patients and potential patients is by using an electronic newsletter.