If you're like most healthcare professionals, you've experienced things that most people would never dream of. From patients refusing to pay (I heard of one patient who threw a fit over a $1.26 bill!) to being cursed out in front of an entire waiting room full of patients, the challenges you face are endless. In the spirit of Halloween, let's talk about how to handle some of those "spookier" situations so you can come out smelling like roses. We will cover different types of real-life scenarios we've heard about from offices like yours and give you advice on what to do. In addition, we'd LOVE to hear from you about things you've gone through and how you tackled them. Let's get started...
Situation 1: Patient shows up for an appointment that somehow never got put in the schedule. It's inevitable. Mistakes happen and this one is a tricky one to manage. If you run into this "horror," it is important to work it out without putting the schedule too far behind or making the patient unhappy. Make sure you are leaving at least one appointment open each day for emergencies (like this!). Even better, leave open both a morning and an afternoon slot available. This will help ensure you don't fall too far behind. Let the patient know that you may be running a bit late and consider keeping a small "reward" on hand to soothe their pain. One practice I know gives out small gift cards to a local movie theater as an apology for running behind. Make sure to accept blame for the mistake and never try to blame the patient. This will only make them more upset.
Situation 2: The "make a scene" patient. Angry patients can happen for so many reasons. And they're sadly common. We're talking about the type of patient that may well make a scene in the waiting room. The one who seems to forget boundaries. If this happens to you, there are a few things you can do to defuse the situation. First, try to move the discussion into a more private location if possible. If it is not possible to move the discussion, remain calm and remember that others are watching. The way you respond can impact their view of your practice. If you feel yourself getting angry, take a few deep breaths and calm yourself. Acknowledge the frustration of the patient by saying something such as "Mr. Smith, I understand that you are upset. What can I do to help? I'd like to understand."
Situation 3: The "I already know what is wrong with me" patient. Patient are self-diagnosing their problems more and more these days. With the help of "Dr. Google" it is not uncommon for a patient to show up and insist they already know what is wrong with them. If you have a different diagnosis, they may even argue with you. In a situation like this, it is important for you to let the patient talk. They need to feel like they are being heard by you...even if they are in the wrong. Patients are much more likely to feel dissatisfied if they think you just herded them through the appointment and ignored what they had to say. Once your patient has explained everything they found online, you can talk to them about their findings and why you might think differently.
Situation 4: Resistant patients. Some patients come in to your office feeling scared or angry about the visit. This may causes resistance when trying to conduct an exam. My own daughter is much like this. She has hated getting shots (don't we all?!?) since she was a toddler. Unfortunately, that means that doctor visits can be nightmares. She fights every step of the process. I am embarrassed to say that more than one poor nurse has been on the receiving end of a kick by my darling daughter. The best way to approach a resistant patient is with empathy and calm. The more calm you are, the more that will be reflected by the patient. Avoid getting angry or frustrated as much as possible.
What situations have you encountered? What do you do to "fight the monsters?" Let us know in the comments!
You can also read more about creating an amazing experience for your patients in our free guide.