Happy patient and doctor. Improved patient experience.

When you are considering improving the patient experience for your practice, think about this story.

During our recent company retreat, our team went on a scavenger hunt. One item on the list was to review their experience at The Store.

Charlie was right! My fall visit to The Store in Warren Vermont cost me over $100.

He warned me that he never made out of this kitchenware and accessories store for less. I thought I was prepared not to spend a dime, but here is what happened to force my wallet open.

I opened the door and within a few seconds:

  • I was hit by the delicious smell of pumpkin soup simmering on a warming plate, waiting for me to pour into a cup and snack on.
  • One of the two portly owners, who obviously love food too, and was seated behind the checkout counter, stood up to personally greet me.
  • Then within the next few minutes, she came out from behind the counter to start a conversation.
  • She started a conversation about where I was from, my cooking interests and more.

Twenty minutes later I had my credit card out and was paying for a sushi roller and an amazing single serving microwave cooker that works really well. Since I’ve told dozens of people since about The Store too.

How can you apply this same approach to turning patients into raving fans that send all their friends to your practice?

8 Ways to Improve the Patient Experience

1. Minimize Wait Times
Long wait times are patients number one complaint. Make sure you have solid scheduling guidelines in place to avoid overbooking providers. If things are running behind, call the patient to let them know so they can come in a few minutes later or at least be prepared for the wait.

Patient consulting with audiologist

Ask the patient to make a list of any questions or concerns. Send a link to a page on your website telling them what to expect at their first appointment. Provide a form on your website, one that just asks, why did you schedule your appointment and what are your concerns or questions. Once they’ve made their appointment, tell them to use the link to provide any additional information they’d like the doctor to know. Even if patients don’t fill it in, it expresses an attitude, which is that you care.

2. Demonstrate an Interest
Greet the patient. When a patient walks in the door, have your front desk staff stand up to greet them. It’s the courteous thing to do, it’s good for your front desk staff anyways, it demonstrates an interest in the patient, and makes them feel important. I don’t know about you, but I hate it when I go to a doctor’s office, and the welcome is done by someone sitting behind a counter who asks my name and then hands me a clipboard of paperwork to fill out. When you do that, you make the patient feel unimportant and like a cog in your patient factory.

3. Start a Conversation
If you know them, greet the patient by name. If you don’t, ask them their name and how you can help. Then, take the important step of demonstrating an interest in them.

Ask them how their day is, how their drive to the office was, or if what they thought about the local high school football team winning last night. Ask for their opinion on something, to get a conversation going and treat them like you would a friend who walked into your house.

4. Make the Patient Comfortable
Instead of starting the patient experience with paperwork, first, help the patient get comfortable.

Have your front desk staff come out from behind their desk, walk over to the patient, touch their elbow, and show them:
– Where to hang their coat,
– Where they can find a Starbucks level cup of coffee,
– Where the freshly baked chocolate chip cookies are,
– Where the bookshelf of free paperbacks is they can borrow (in our town you can grab these at the transfer station for free or from the library).

5. Help the Patient with Paperwork
Once you’ve made the patient feel welcome, ask for their insurance card,  hand them the clipboard along with a pen, and explain what they need to fill out and what to do once they’ve filled in the form.  Then, let them know if they have any questions at all, to ask.

After the patient has completed the paperwork:
– Tell them where the magazines are, mention any recent articles of interest,
– Let them know who the provider they will be seeing is.

A patient having an improved experience. Happy and talking to the doctor.

6. Manage Expectations
Explain what they’ll be doing with the provider and how long the wait will be. Map it all out so the patient has an understanding of how they will be spending the next 30-60 minutes. Then, if the patient is new, when the provider is ready, introduce them to the patient.

7. Make the Patient Feel Important
Patients’ perception is practitioners are trying to rush through their office visit. One simple way to alter this perception is to sit down when asking patients questions. This small gesture makes the patient experience more comfortable and they feel they are being listened to.

Avoid asking for the same information twice. All too often in practices patients are asked to provide the same information over and over. Use your information management system to avoid this.

Use questions to get patients talking about themselves. Over 51% of patients felt their relationships with their doctors could be more personal. Demonstrate empathy. Yes, 75% of patients’ perception is that their physicians lack empathy. If patients truly believe you care, they are willing to overlook a multitude of mistakes and much more likely to accept your recommendations.

Increase patients’ perceived value of services provided. 62%  felt they should have had a better patient experience considering the cost.

8. Transform Patients Into Raving Fans
After the patient has finished seeing the physician or provider, have a staff member guide the patient into the front office. Again, express an interest and ask them something like, how did it go, did you get all your questions answered?

Hand a patient a printed summary of their visit, including the diagnosis and recommended plan of action. Then, hand them a short form and ask them if they would provide you with their email address so you can send them a copy of their invoice and ask them for some positive feedback. When they are done, have your front desk staff stand up, shake their hand, and thank them for coming by.


Providing a great patient experience sounds a lot like what you’d do if a friend visited your house

You’d welcome them in, make them feel comfortable, offer them a glass of water, and show an interest in them. You’d make them feel important.

This works for the people you know and the people who are your patients. Take these simple steps and you’ll stand out from other impersonal providers in your town and generate raving fans for your practice.

Ready to grow your practice? Schedule a free business strategy session with our team…

BTW – this post is largely based on the everlasting Dale Carnegie Principles – Download them here…

Patient data courtesy of the Cleveland Clinic