Working in a customer service capacity as a medical billing specialist, you will have patients that are frustrated or unhappy about the medical bills they have received. While it is understandable that they are angry, worried, and frustrated, it is your job to get them to pay their bills and help them understand why their accounts tally up as they do. One of the best techniques at your disposal is de-escalation.

While explaining a patient’s bill to them, the patient may become angrier, more hostile, and more threatening. They are becoming emotional, but if you know how to de-escalate the situation, you will succeed in this line of work. There are some excellent techniques for taking these verbal assaults down a notch, and why these techniques work.

De-escalation With Empathy

You know what it’s like to have a medical bill that seems astronomical. Recall a moment where your medical bills were mind-boggling and use that feeling to empathize with the patient. Let them know you are on their side and that you have been in a similar position before. When the patient hears that you “get it,” they start to calm down.

Listening to the Patient

Not just hearing what the patient says but actively listening to them helps with de-escalation. These patients are calling because they want someone, anyone, to just listen to what they have to say. The best way to help the patient understand that you are indeed listening is to repeat back to them or paraphrase what they just said, and then follow it with a phrase of confirmation like “is that correct?” or “I believe I heard you say…”. When upset people feel as though someone heard what they are saying and feeling, they begin to calm down.

Taking Ownership and Apologizing

It is certainly not your fault personally that a medical bill is what it is, but a frustrated patient wants to hear that someone is taking ownership and responsibility. Tell the patient you will look into this while you have them on the phone and apologize for the inconvenience. Proceed to check all billing codes on the bill, and then instruct the patient what they can do (contact insurance, contact service provider’s office, etc.). Provide some direction if you can’t provide a real solution.