In the first installment of this blog, I wrote about patient communication and education. It’s my personal belief that everything about how we run our business is also a very powerful aspect of our communication with patients. As such it is more subtle, often non-verbal, communication which makes it more difficult to “teach” but possibly even more powerful than the things we write or say out loud.
What do I mean by office-operations-as-unspoken-communication? Pretty much everything! This includes things as diverse as how (and whether!!!) the phone is answered, how easy or difficult it is to get an appointment, the quality and ease-of-use-and-understanding of your patient paperwork, ease of finding your office, ease of use of your website, whether you run your clinic on time, your bedside manner, the lighting and décor or your rooms, efficiency of check in and check out process, to the cleanliness of the bathrooms. The better you do at all of these, the more satisfied your patients will be with your services. It might even make your treatments work better because all these things are part of placebo effect. Let’s talk about a few of these in more detail.
People in our profession who’ve heard me speak about business know that I have a pet peeve about how poorly we do, in general, with this service to our patients. Without whining too much let me say two things:
1. The lion’s share of the people who are making any serious money in this profession are not answering their own phones.
2. People expect that professional, “real” medical services will be open for business during regular hours. Nothing says dilettante or “playing doctor” more loud and clear than a message about how you’ll get back to them soon and their message is important to you.
3. If you were to become one of the clinics that has it’s phone answered every time someone calls, you’d be in the minority and you’d be more likely to be successful simply because you are open for business and people can get hold of you.
Efficiency of your check-in/check-out
People want to be greeted by a friendly face, sign whatever they need to sign, not wait too long to actually see the clinician, be able to get water or tea, pay their bill quickly and be on their way. Inefficient management of your reception services: no one there when they come in the office, paperwork that cannot be found or is not ready to fill in (best if they can download from your website), paper not loaded into the credit card machine, lights that don’t work, scattered and disorganized operations, running out of toilet paper or facial tissues, all these things indicate to people that the business is not well run. If the business is poorly run, how do they know they can trust any other aspect of your work (like your treatments, for example)?
In our world, people expect any type of medical office to be spotless. That includes bathrooms, carpets, walls, windows, equipment, everything. Period. This is really not optional.
Ease of getting an appointment
This goes back to phone service, but may also involve your website and email communications. If I want an appointment, but I want to ask you a question first, or I want an appointment today, I need someone to answer the phone or get back in touch with me within minutes of my leaving a message, or answer my email within an hour of when I sent it. If this is not happening in your clinic, you’re going to lose patients. People should not have to work at getting in touch or getting in to see you. In fact, landing on your treatment table should be in every way possible, as easy as sliding down a greased pole and landing on it before they knew what happened!
There is an entire chapter on this subject in Points for Profit, but just to reiterate, the basic idea for décor in your clinic is one of a few options:
• either knock the socks off your chosen niche of patients, or at least make them feel that the entire place is “all about them” in some way.
• go for a classy, simple, appealing to everyone haven where anyone could relax and be comfortable
• make your space very community oriented, with bulletin boards, announcements about your volunteer activities, offer your space for community meetings, food co-op pickup and drop-off, and generally make it homey in a community oriented way.
No matter what else, keep it clean, clean, clean.
All the above things go into making sure your business approach is patient centered and totally easy and comfortable to interact with. Make sure these are NOT reasons why patients stop care before you decide, together that it’s time.
Next time…Part 3 of this blog: What Payment Options can you offer your patients so they don’t quit for financial reasons?