Summer is over and the kids have returned to school. Everywhere the focus has shifted to autumn and the upcoming holidays. If your practice is considering getting a jump on the season and ordering those mass-produced holiday cards, here’s a word of advice: Don’t.
Of patients who leave a practice, 70 percent of them leave because they don’t feel they are appreciated. While the temptation is to send a holiday card once a year and call it good, the truth is, your efforts go further when there is no specific reason for offering them. According to research being done at the Cardiac Psychiatry Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, the power of gratitude on biology and behavior can be profound. Showing genuine patient appreciation can impact outcomes of healthcare, shortening healing time and reducing the likelihood of complications.
There are a few considerations that you should be mindful of before simply handing out thank-yous like Halloween candy. Pay close attention and make your patient appreciation count.
You Really Can’t Fake Sincerity: Authenticity is the number one aspect of gratitude. If you can’t say it and mean it, then don’t say it at all. To ensure sincerity when expressing appreciation to your patients, make sure you:
Don’t rush it. Hurrying through it makes it seem as if you’ve got more important things to do elsewhere.
Make the thanks the only thing you’re doing in that moment. Stop everything else, and take that moment to connect with your patient as you’re showing appreciation. And be sure to make eye contact. Looking away shows your thoughts are elsewhere and your words are not sincere.
Use positive language. Thank them for trusting you. Thank them for allowing you the privilege of taking care of them. If you can’t speak to the patient directly, make sure you share your appreciation with the friend or family member who is there.
Even if you’re on the phone, make sure the sincerity is there. While a patient may not be able to see your face, they will be able to read appreciation in your tone of voice.
The Value of the Written Word: For important communication, email is an effective means of reaching patients quickly. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly ⅔ of Americans now own a smartphone that is used for Internet access. Using this technology to reach out to patients demonstrates appreciation for the changing needs your patients have. In addition, a handwritten note that comes in the mailbox carries a powerful message for special events. It shows that your patient meant enough to you for you to take time out of your day and reach out. Saying thank you with a quick note you wrote and mailed speaks volumes to your patients and makes a significant impact on their opinion of you and your practice.
Sprinkle Compliments Liberally: Complimenting your patients, even for simple things, demonstrates to them that you are paying attention. Stay away from the empty, insincere compliments, such as “You look like you’ve lost weight,” or “I really like that color on you.” Try instead for compliments that have purpose and power. If you have a juvenile patient, why not thank the parent who took time from their day to bring the kid to your office.
And when you compliment someone, begin with the word “you.” For example, “You’ve got a great smile today. Must be a great day.” Or compliment your front office staff when patients can hear. This makes a lasting impact as well. Again, start with the word “you” when you compliment, and save the word “I” for when you need to apologize.
These patient appreciation tactics can be used all year long. Don’t wait for the one time of year when everyone decides to hop on the appreciation bandwagon. Applying these tactics year-round will mean that your patients don’t have to wait for the mass-produced holiday greeting card to know how you feel about them.
For more information on connecting with patients, click here!