Did you know that one of the all-time most popular articles and topics at Concierge Medicine Today in the past decade is How to Write a Thank You Note? ~Editor
By Michael Tetreault, Editor
My son loves geology, rocks and magnets. When there’s a new rock in the school yard, we’re testing it out. But, did you every magnet has two sides: a north pole and a south pole.
So what happens when two magnets are placed side by side?
When two magnets are close to one another, we see that there is more pull force when the poles are facing in opposite directions. We find less pull force if the poles are facing in the same direction. When two magnets are far enough apart, the magnetization direction doesn’t seem to matter very much.
Now, how does this apply to a Doctor and Patient? It’s a stretch right? Well, no, not really. There’s something we can learn here.
(Story Con’t Below)
Your Patients are the backbone and champions behind your career. They are the lifeblood of any great medical practice. The magnet that keeps them coming back in today’s culture is believe or not, not about YOU at all. Would you believe me if I told you that only 23% of 6,000 Patients in the past five years say “I completely trust my Doctor’s opinion.”
That’s just astounding to us how far such an amazing profession with so much skill and talent has fallen from grace in the eyes of its customer (e.g. Patient). This means 77 percent of people in your community don’t, won’t and will not trust you!
So what is the magnet or pull force that is keeping them coming back in YOUR office if it isn’t the relationship they have with the Doctor?
Answer: Insurance. You happen to be in-network, right now.
Sad, but true.
Yup. A Patient has to find that in-network Doctor in order to make it work and get whatever is wrong fixed.
I listened to an interview with an Emergency Room Physician last week. He said something that bothered me. He said “I don’t give a $%#& about all that touchy feely stuff. At the end of the day, I fix the problem and move on. I don’t put emotions into it. Patients are projects. I fix the project.”
For a great ER Physician, that philosophy may work. There’s no real connection after the trauma. I get it. But, Patients around you and I right now, feel like this is how EVERY Doctor feels about their Patient. We’re just a project to be fixed and then move on to the next one.
Patients are not Projects. Patients are People.
So what is the magnet of your practice? What are people saying about you when they leave? Are you repelling them or far enough away that you’re forgotten until it comes time to stick something on the fridge and go in to see the Doctor for that thing that’s been bothering you?
Patients today understand that you’ve got the degree to solve the problem and unfortunately, they’re willing to wait, be rudely treated by your staff, pay a co-pay and really just want to get on with their lives with as little interaction with a person who appears to care more about seeing the next patient than the current patient.
That mentality isn’t fair, but it’s true.
Let’s reverse engineer this though. What if we flipped the magnet over and Doctors were attracting vs. repelling their Patients?
This magnet theory is magical in your practice because it transforms Doctors into nice, caring people.
When you throw a hand written card in the mailbox, every Patient on the receiving end suddenly perks up.
So why do your colleagues in medicine, staff administration treat Patient and People so poorly and unprofessionally? Why is the ‘standard’ of care or the ‘status quo’ defended so vehemently? Well, there’s money to be made, that’s why.
And, that’s all well and good, but what about the wake of poor, disenfranchised, bad attitudes and stories Patients and former Patients are now sharing? How is that making the event of ‘going to the doctor’ any less miserable? It’s not.
To put this in perspective, I had a conversation last week with three Concierge Physicians.
We talked about how supposedly “equal” Physicians are towards each other in an executive Board Room or hospital hallway, but when it comes to practicing our Doctor in an exam room, a Patient picks up on your “atmosphere” within ten seconds of you walking in the room. Patients can tell if you’re simply a good Doctor or a great Doctor in record time.
So how do you go from good to great in the minds of your Patients? Well, there are several things a Doctor must do. And, they must do them repeatedly. It’s not a ‘well, I did that last week, so we don’t have to do it again …’ kind of thing. It’s a daily habit.
One of those habits is writing THANK YOU NOTES.
I know, it seem so silly and antiquated but it works.
Every Doctor I talk to wants patient referrals. Just simply being nice isn’t going to cut it. A good Doctor can be nice. A Barista can be nice. My kids teachers are nice. What I’m looking for is a great Doctor who will go to bat for me with specialists. What we’re looking for is personal knowledge of our acute situation. What Patients want is someone who cares enough to care. And today in healthcare, let’s be honest, we don’t feel that from our Physician anymore.
So one way to increase patient referrals is remember the little things a Patient may say to you. I sat down with a physician recently who jots small little hand written notes in the margins of the patients file about personal things the patient said. For example, a patient recently lost their grandfather. He noted it in the margins and sent a bereavement card signed and handwritten with the patients address the next day.
Why wouldn’t you take a brief moment of your time to write a note that says to a Patient, “Hey, I listened to you … I hear you.” Or, say THANK YOU?
This lost art of writing a note is one of the small ways a patient can tell if you’re a good Doctor or a caring, Great Doctor.
Don’t believe me? Well, prove me wrong. Try it.
After all, what do you have to lose? Patients when they leave your office are saying something about you to their friends and family? Are you creating a reputation worth remarking about? What would your last ten patients say about you? Was your last patient visit remarkable?
What would you do with out patient referrals? A better question, what would they do without you?
Sending a thank-you note after a meaningful conversation with a Patient is one way to set yourself apart as a Concierge Medicine Physician.
Often I pose the question to a Physician … How would your next Patient react or feel if your medical practice closed up and didn’t exist any longer?
Would they miss YOU? Would they notice? Would they even care? Or, would they just shrug their shoulders and move on? What would they say about YOU if your practice closed and there was a For Lease sign in the window?
The two words ‘Thank you’ are two of the English language’s most elegant words to me. They should be the lifeblood of a Concierge Medicine practice. These two words are words that Doctors everywhere don’t say enough. Think about it. When was the last time you received a thank you note (handwritten) from a Doctor? If I was a patient and got one of these … heck, I’d probably frame it! That’s how rare this is today in healthcare.
These two powerful words, THANK YOU, encourage, uplift and create a remarkable impression on your Patients with the added benefit of increased loyalty. Today, I want to share with you 7 great ways you can show your patient appreciation and say Thank you! to Patients in the future.
1. Send a hand-written card, preferably on your own person, embossed note card sized stationary.
Don’t send an email. It is just not personal enough. Despite the digital age, hand-written notes or small cards will always be one of the simplest and best ways to say ‘Thank you’ because it’s personal, meaningful and intentional. Keep it short. Hand-written communication will never be out of date but you don’t need to write a novel. It is usually always a small, low-cost gesture, but it means a lot. Why? Because it was intentional and personal.
2. Make It Personal. Personalize It.
Doctors should think back to the conversation and pinpoint what the patient seemed most excited to talk about. Mentioning specific details discussed during the conversation in your thank-you note. This shows that the you, their Doctor were listening and paying close attention.
Amanda Augustine is a well-recognized expert in career advancement, including offering advice to people on developing one’s professional brand said …
“Thank them for their time and whatever you learned but pay attention to the personal details that came up during the interview,” Augustine said. “If you remember there’s an upcoming vacation or if they’re a huge Yankees fan, don’t be afraid to bring that up. You want them to remember the conversation you had that sets you apart from the others.”
3. Remember birthdays
If you don’t have a record of your staff and Patient birthdays, start making one. Make use of the milestone to show your appreciation and gratitude. Surprise and delight them with an unexpected birthday card in the mail or in-person, or give them a shout out on Facebook to show you’re thinking of them.
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4. Send them a Christmas card
Don’t forget Christmas cards. Post them in your practice and make sure you provide a hand-signed Christmas card. Adding staff signatures is a nice touch but it actually can work against you. Oftentimes, your Patient may really like you as their doctor but they had a disagreement with one of your staff and that can come back to haunt you.
4. Send them a Thanksgiving card
Don’t forget Thanksgiving!
5. Write letters of reference for students you may know or who have worked with you in your practice.
Don’t forget this important aspect of life. Maybe a long-time Patient has a daughter or son graduating from college and you’ve known them since birth. Look for any area within their lives that you can upon receiving a request, write up a recommendation or referral letter. If you didn’t realize that, you’re being too humble. Offer to be a reference, or write a recommendation for connections on LinkedIn.
6. Have Great, not just GOOD prizes for kids to grab when they leave the office.
Every parent loves it when a visit to the doctors office does not end in a car ride of tears. That’s not fun. I know from personal experience what I’m talking about here. Oddly enough, as I write this today, my wife called and said “That doctor’s office had GREEEAAAAAAAAT!!!! prizes!” And that is exactly how you want visits to the doctor’s office to end. With smiling, happy faces on the kids and the parents. It doesn’t have to cost a lot but it will take an intentional and thoughtful trip to the Five Below store.
Look for pre-packaged items that are one-person grabs from a basked. For example, individually wrapped and packaged LEGO packs, Beanie Boo’s, Hot Wheels toys. Kids and parents are resilient but they can often have very long-term memories of how awful the last visit to the doctor’s office was or short term memories about how great the last visit was. Which one are you going to be?
7. Be Generous
If you get to know your Patient, you get to know what they are doing. Whatever it is, invest into your Patient’s personal development. It could be as simple as a leadership or business topic you discussed last month and you just happen to be on Amazon and bought a book for them. Be generous in small and large ways and you will reap the rewards for years to come.
Finally, one closing thought. If you’re a Doctor and you care about Patient Referrals, grab a blank card or a Thank You note and start writing!
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