doctor's office communication tips

Are your medical office receptionists or nurses having trouble communicating with your elderly patients over the telephone? 

Certain telephone technology such as voicemail options, call waiting, and multiple lines can be challenging for elderly callers.  In addition, many seniors deal with hearing loss, vision loss and dementia.  Therefore, delivering and receiving critical information by telephone can be especially difficult for all involved.

Luckily, our training expert here at Dexcomm has put together a few tips and guidelines that can help overcome these communication barriers for both your elderly patients and phone operators.

Share this with the employees at your medical office to help communication between your patients and staff.

Essential Elements when speaking to elderly callers updated


4 Tips for Communicating With Your Senior Patients

1) Know Your Patients

Know your patients’ habits, disabilities, and barriers so that you can better help them and service their needs.  If you have a shift change or a new phone operator, update them on your patients’ habits.

Example:  Mrs. Green usually has trouble hearing but never has trouble talking.  Today she calls in and seems to be struggling with her speech.

This might be a good indicator that something is wrong with Mrs. Green.  Ask her questions like how she is feeling today and if she knows her location.  She might not always be aware of her condition.  This could be a matter of life and death for some patients.

2) Speak Clearly

It is important to speak clearly but not yell. Yelling is rude, disrespectful, and often unnecessary. Instead of yelling to your senior patients, use simpler words and phrases to help decrease the communication barrier.  Rephrase your statement if the elderly patient seems confused.

3) Take Your Time

Taking your time with the elderly caller is very important.  If you are rushed, it will only add to the frustration with sending and receiving the information over the phone. If your patient is asking you to repeat things often, you are most likely speaking too quickly.

Slow your speech down and speak more clearly in order to help your patient. Senior citizens may react at a slower pace, so give them a chance to respond.

Patience is a must for phone operators, especially those interacting with elderly patients and callers.

4) Probe

Knowing when and how to ask certain questions in order to get valuable information from your patient is important to his/her health and safety.  Patients don’t always freely offer information unless asked.

Essential Guidelines for Communicating with Seniors Over the Phone

How do I best listen to elderly patients?

  • Do not rush or come to conclusions
  • Never finish the patient's sentence
  • Reduce distraction, keep track of what is being said
  • Never interrupt
What type of speech should I use with senior patients?
  • Speak slowly
  • Enunciate clearly
  • Pay special attention to vocal quality
Special Probing Skills
  • Questions may need to be asked, rephrased, or asked again
  • Reason for call may need to be paraphrased and reconfirmed
  • Caller may need to be queried whether they have lingering questions or concerns before ending call
How can I show respect to older patients?
  • Respect your elders.
  • Use titles such as Mr., Mrs., and Dr. This is particularly important.
  • Avoid patronizing language or tone. Speaking in an exaggerated slow fashion, using condescending tones or vocabulary, and yelling are all very rude techniques to communicate with a senior patient.

Key Points

Working with elderly patients can prove to be challenging, but also very rewarding if you help protect their health and ensure their safety.  Be patient and use your instincts to break down the communication barriers.  Remember that one day, we might all be the senior on the other end of the line.  

If you need assistance handling the calls to your medical or doctor's office, consider Dexcomm. Dexcomm is HIPAA compliant, can work with your CRM for appointment scheduling, and provide after-hours call answering. DIscover how Dexcomm can help your medical practice grow here. 



Dexcomm is a Louisiana-based corporation that provides answering services to businesses and service agencies across the United States. We have been open since 1954, employ a staff of roughly 50 people, and our average client retention rate is 10+ years.

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