Patients do not always behave exactly like you may want them to. It can be irritating.
By Michael Tetreault, Editor in Chief
Concierge Medicine is a customer service and relationship intense business. It has to be. The expectations of patients are heightened to levels healthcare delivery business models have never seen before. And, “it’s all good” … as they like to say.
But what about the uncomfortable moments of tension you or your staff have to manage when a patient leaves the appointment early because of something outside your or their control?
What about those moments where a patient’s cell phone rings in the middle of the conversation and you’ve got something very important to share with them? Are you sensitive to their frantic schedule that day to get them out the door on time … while at the same time, ensuring your next touch point or follow-up will not be a distraction to their condition?
We hear physicians and their staff who wrestle with the same issues.
Patients need to leave early for a variety of reasons:
- They want to beat the traffic.
- They want to get to lunch.
- They need to get somewhere by a certain time.
- They are not engaged during the end of your examination.
From time to time, you’ll know when, as their physician [and hopefully, friend], you can simply ask patients to not leave early … because today is really important. Even when you do that, you may still have some patients who leave. It can be frustrating. They may be distracting other patients as they leave or they may even be distracting or discouraging other new patients you have in the office from enrolling.
It’s important, however, that you treat them like you would all other patients who stay for the entire appointment. Give them the same good-bye you give all of your patients. Don’t get your feelings hurt and do not assume they know you are going to follow-up. Tell them what your next steps will be with them directly. Reassure them you are always there for them, that you understand hectic schedules and don’t mind if they need to leave suddenly or unexpectedly.
More than likely, your staff can and will do the most to manage the tension from a patient experience perspective. But you, as the CEO of your Concierge Medicine practice, must help your staff navigate these uncertain waters. After one or two abrupt exits from patients, they’ll know immediately what the follow-up process should be and what needs to be done and said after the visit is complete.
Patients do not always behave exactly like you may want them to. It can be irritating. It can cause awkward conversations and follow-up challenges. But, when you make your patients feel valued regardless of what time they arrive or leave, everyone wins!
If you are accomplishing your practice’s mission and changing the lives of the patients and community you service, people will tell their friends about the places that make them feel valued. They’ll remember how you were empathetic and how quickly and well you (or your staff) followed up with them.