Oldie but goodie! This post was originally published in Nov 2015 and updated in Oct 2017 as part of an on-going series highlighting popular past posts.
You are finally starting to get this practice management thing down…
Implement fresh marketing ideas…check!
Send out monthly patient newsletters...check!
Monitor and respond to patient reviews...check! Post regularly on and engage with your patients via social media…check!
Great job! Give yourself a pat on the back!
Fine-tuning these efforts and other practice processes is a process in itself. With all of your hard work, you are beginning to bring your patient relationship management to a whole new level. Patients are better educated and more engaged than ever with your practice, and they seem to be more proactive about staying on top of their healthcare. Your practice is firing on all cylinders! This is great; however, do you know how your patients view your practice, your staff, and their experience when they come in for care? What if you could put yourself in their shoes? What would you learn about your practice?
If you ask yourself the following questions, you may be surprised at the answers you come up with:
- What insights could we gain about ways we are delivering quality care and areas that have room for improvement?
- What could we change regarding how we engage with our patients while they are in the office as well as in between visits?
- What could our staff do differently to increase overall patient satisfaction?
As you consider looking at things from a patient’s perspective, consider these suggestions:
1. I respond better to the 80/20 rule. Don’t get into “presentation” mode with me when discussing my healthcare. It is overwhelming especially if you are using medical jargon. As a general rule, speak less, listen more. Ask open-ended questions that will lead me to feel like I am making my own decisions rather than you telling me what I should do. This way, I will feel more invested in your recommended treatment plan for me.
2. Try being me for a day. Have you ever sat down in a waiting room seat or patient chair and looked around the room. Do you notice the cobwebs sometimes strewn across the plants or lights? The garbage that someone failed to make sure made it into the trash can? The waiting room toys and books that need cleaning so my child doesn’t pick something up while I wait to be seen? The clutter left behind on the counters from the previous patient procedure? The dusty baseboards? The restroom that needs tending to? I notice.
It’s common to be so concerned with office procedures and paperwork that we fail to notice the little things that can make the difference in a patient’s overall office experience. It’s these things that can turn a potential or existing patient away. Don’t give them cause to wonder how clean other more important things are…
3. Ask me so I know you care. Have you ever asked me what it is I need from you or what you can do to support me throughout the continuum of my care? If you don’t ask, you’ll never know. For example, do you know what my most significant personal and family health concerns or goals are? If you don’t understand what my needs are, you will likely not meet the expectations I have for my health and of my relationship with you. Invest time getting to know me upfront so I know I can trust you and feel a connection with you so and feel comfortable discussing future health concerns with you.
4. You should stay competitive with up-to-date technology. There are a lot of providers out there I could choose from to receive my healthcare. With changes occurring in healthcare technology on a consistent basis, I’m more likely to go with one I feel is current on technology within your industry and can show me immediately what my condition is or what my results may be. I’d prefer to know now rather than wait for information to be processed and have to come back for a follow up visit. I’m too busy!
We live in an age where we are very spoiled, and yet, fortunate, having immediate access to nearly any information we would want to know about. This desire for instant feedback still exists within the walls of your office. Use high quality digital photographs and digital imaging software tools during treatment presentations when appropriate.
5. Get to know me on a personal level too. Be genuinely interested in what my kids and I are involved in. Have you asked me what we enjoy doing in our spare time, for activities, work, etc.? Try putting a sticky note on the outside of my patient file with something about me as a quick reference so that I at least feel like you remember who I am. As I share my personal and health-related concerns, let me know that you sympathize or empathize with me so I feel that you genuinely care.
6. Communication is key for me too! You’ve heard the saying, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it.” Whether I’m calling to schedule an appointment, trying to figure out a payment plan for my bill that will work within my budget, or expressing frustration from my patient experience, you can say whatever you want, but if I don’t feel like you are listening or I notice your negative body language, it may make the difference between me spreading a good word and writing a negative review.
No matter what your position is within the practice, it is important to remember how impactful active listening and clear communication can be. Always treat your patients with respect and make sure they feel like their satisfaction is important to you. Keep this in mind as you deal with patients inside and outside of the office throughout the year.
7. Help me understand why. It’s all fine and good to tell me what I should do to fix my problem, but often I don’t make it a priority because I don’t fully understand the significance of following through with your suggested treatment. What will happen if I don’t make it a priority? And don’t assume I can’t afford recommended treatment. If I understand the benefits of it, I will decide if it’s important enough to work it into my budget rather than that big screen tv we have been wanting to get.
8. Keep it simple please! After you explain my treatment options or long term plan, please also give me some written and/or emailed instructions so I can review these again while I’m at home and settled and not so distracted by the stress of my discussed health concerns. It’s difficult to remember everything you explain to me about steps I can take to improve my health or situation, particularly if I have children with me during my visit. Follow up info is always helpful and appreciated!
9. Speak my language. Communication preference is not universal, so if you want to be able to communicate effectively with me, it would be helpful for you to know which type of communication works best for me regarding appointment reminders (phone call, text, email). I may or may not be super text savvy so a text reminder may not be practical for me or maybe I’m always on the go and don’t have time to check voicemail messages and a text is the best way for me to be reminded of my upcoming appointment or a last minute opening in your schedule.
Understanding your patient’s perspective will give you great insight into how you can provide the best patient experience and ensure the most successful health outcomes. Effective communication is so key to achieving this. Patient portal technology has so many advantages and conveniences for improving communication with your patients and giving them up-to-date and convenient access to their personal health information. Make sure every patient is aware of this option, should you offer it.
Mobile apps also come with additional benefits and conveniences for bill payment, navigation to your office, instant communication capability, requesting an appointment and more. It puts your practice in the palm of your patient’s hand keeping you better connected in order to benefit both your patients and practice. Finding out what makes your patients tick and how you can communicate best with them only makes sense. Try gathering this type of information through your patient surveys with their initial visit and you will likely see your patient satisfaction reach new heights.
Learn more about how to keep patients engaged in our free ebook, "38 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Patient Engagement System."