sub·par | Dictionary result for /səbˈpär/adjective: meaning — below an average level.
By Michael Tetreault, Editor and Guest Contributor, Megan Horn
It’s been touted at conferences and webinars that “Exceptional Patient Experience + Exceptional Patient Service = a Better Patient Care Setting.”
Question: Does this equation work in healthcare?
Answer: Most of the time. I guess like you, it all depends on the leadership of the Doctor in the practice, his/her background and execution and routine attention to detail on such matters.
This equation is often used by Concierge Medicine Doctors in their office environments. And, it is how Doctors in these care delivery environments such as some in Direct Primary Care (DPC), Retail Healthcare, VPV (Virtual Private Visits) welcome, inform, and serve every person who walks in your door or gives them a call.
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Providing a remarkable experience for your Patient depends on a number of factors doesn’t it? From staff; paint color; smell; sight; sound; expertise; experience; signage; facilities; parking and the overall “feel” of the practice … all of these factors can attract or distract a patient. Concierge Medicine for example, it’s goal, in every interaction with a Patient, is to listen, befriend, treat every person with dignity, kindness, respect for schedule and essentially, exceed their expectations, every single time. Meanwhile, having a backdrop of hospitality at the heart and soul of the practice in every staff or step they take inside the four walls of the practice.
We understand that some may say … ‘Healthcare is more complicated than that.’
Healthcare today is an experience. It’s filled with worry, intrepadation and anxiety. There are so many routine and mundane distractions that get in the way of the Doctor-Patient relationship.
Don’t take our word for it thought, we’ll let the true stories we hear from real, actively seeking Patients who read our publications tell you their stories …
“I Feel Like A Number.” ~Matt, Anaheim, CA; Feb. 2019
“We have had 2 doctors close their practice in the last 6 months.” ~Cathy, Portland, OR, Feb. 2019
“I’m tired of long wait lists and lines when I do go to the doctors. I am transitioning from one state to another and need to get in to see a doctor.” ~G.B., Maryland, Feb. 2019
“Unable to get appointments in a timely manner.” ~A.J., Atlanta, GA, Jan. 2019
“My Doctor Asks Me Less Than 5 Questions, I Feel Like A Number and they spend less than 15-Min. w/ me per visit.” ~G.F., BUELLTON, CA, January, 2019
“I need a Doctor who has a deeper understanding of complex medical condition interactions.” ~Student, Dallas, TX, Jan. 2019
“The Staff Is Difficult To Work With.” ~R.Y., Newark, January 2019
I love this clip from the 2018 CMT Concierge Medicine FORUM last year from our “Welcome to Wonderland” Industry Innovators Panel … take a look below …
Good service, friendly staff, a smiling Doctor … when patient expectations are met word of mouth travels fast!
And as the Patient [e.g. Customer] becomes even more empowered, they feel empowered to share and spread the positive word with their friends too, right?
All of these good vibes help patient relations and will in time, increase the relavence of you as their Doctor. We’re seeing data that Doctors that invest in customer experience training for them and their staff also boast higher profits. With that said, more and more Doctors are taking customer experience and customer service seriously.
TRUE STORY of GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE and KINDNESS
“I need to tip my hat to Gerhard Brandner, a captain of Frontier Airlines, for an opposite kind of story. Amid ugly storms in the Midwest, the plane Gerhard was piloting from Washington, D.C., to Denver got diverted in Cheyenne. You know the drill: The plane is sitting and sitting and people are getting hungrier and hungrier as they wait for the weather to pass and the backlog of other diverted planes to resume their travels. So what does the good captain do? According to KDRV, he pulls his credit card out of his wallet and buys 50 pizzas for everyone on the plane!”
What Can I Do Now To Improve Customer Service + Patient Experience In My Practice? How to Build A Strong Patient/Customer Experience
So what cues and/or advice do Concierge Medicine Doctors and these high-touch, tailored care environments say others can do to move the needle in the right direction?
Well, here’s some helpful strategies to consider.
Hallway Scent Deodorizer
They’re so simple, you plug them in!
Try it. See what happens. If they smell bad or people complain [or compliment], keep them around, or don’t.
The point is, try something new. What do you have to lose?
Attn All Staff, ‘No Front Office Snacking, Lunch-ing or Munching.’
It goes without saying, but we’ve all seen it. Worse yet, watching someone eat is not always the most appetizing picture for patients waiting in your lobby. And, if we’re on our smart phones, which we all are, what if that patient took a picture of that person doing that and posted it about your practice? How would that make you feel?
Engage with people in waiting rooms
People hate waiting. We just do. Most of the time, Patients arrive early and we’re asked to have a seat … and wait.
Waiting rooms are one of the most ridiculous ideas in healthcare say some Concierge Medicine Doctors. It’s one of the primary frustrations and cited reasons why a Patient detests going to the Doctors office.
The never-ending time frame and lack of respect for ones schedule.
Only in healthcare is this accepted, expected, rinsed and repeated, day after day.
So what do can you do if you have one?
Avoid lengthy wait times. Set a goal of one minute less than the last wait. Waiting frustrates every Patient and tees you [eg. the Doctor] up for a disinterested, distracted, bad attitude exam minutes or even hours later.
This can be further worsened by the apathy from staff who are only paid to serve customers at the front of the office and have been trained that once the Patient is seated, they’re job/role is over. Essentially saying, ‘My customer service and attention towards you ends once you have a seat. The Doctor will be with you shortly.’
If it seems we’re being tough on your staff, well, we are. These untrained customer service reps in medical offices work hard but are commonly not aware of how their behavior reflects on you, the CEO/Physician and owner of the practice.
One of the ways you can show empathy and soften the beaches for a politer, friendlier, more interested, engaged and happier patient-physician exam moments later is … not ignore the people waiting for your time and expertise.
How do you do this you might ask?
Acknowledge them, smile when you walk by. Actually say something to them in the waiting room. Crack a joke.
Or, maybe apologize to the group or individual or Mother who is frustrated with her kids at the moment at the long wait and give her an ETA on when she might be visiting with you. Be early! Be kind. Be empathetic.
These effective communication strategies both big and small are thoughtful interactions which don’t need to be so clinical but simply more relational.
One Concierge Medicine physician in South Carolina we spoke to passes out a $5.00 Starbucks gift card as standard practice for waits more than 15-minutes. Sometimes, these gift cards are accompanied by a hand written note to the person in the waiting room directly who’ve waited more than 20-minutes. They feel acknowledged and respected.
You might think ‘Well that idea could get expensive in a hurry.’
Exactly. Why do you think his wait-times are not less than 10-minutes! In essence, he implemented an internal motivational strategy that incentivized him and his staff to run a tighter schedule. If he didn’t, there was a little pain point or penalty for him if he didn’t meet his own standards.
Clean/Sanitize Waiting Rooms, Entry Door Handles — go the extra mile. Make the effort.
In the new world of COVID-19, Patients don’t always trust that you or your cleaning crew or your staff are really doing a great job.
We just don’t.
If the public did, you wouldn’t see sanitary wipes next to shopping carts at the grocery store, Purel at the liquor store near the checkout counter or hand sanitizer near your front desk.
Our long-time readers [eg. Physicians] over the years have sent in their own stories. For example, when a Patient was there the evening or late afternoon and arrives for a follow up with you the next morning and notices that the carpet hasn’t been vacuumed. Or, a trash can or two was missed in the evening clean up. We shake our head and the visit goes on. But, Patients have long-term memory about things that gross them out. These can be distractions that cause us not to listen to every word you say. It’s not fair, but it’s true.
You might consider putting a sign, similar to what private preschools do in their lobbies notifying people that YOU have exceptional cleaning and sanitizing standards.
Then, live up to it. Keep the people you hire accountable.
Rethink the Interior Design In Your Bathrooms.
Did you realize that the wife or Mother of the typical family is usually the Healthcare CEO of the family?
When she goes to visit the bathroom, you really should put more emphasis on the cleanliness and design details of the female restroom than the male restroom.
Because you just never know what they’re going to say. You want to impress don’t you?
Create a remarkable experience when you’re not actually around the Patient. The women’s restroom is the perfect setting to set the tone for the office and exam experience.
Clean Your Pens!
That forgotten little germ carrier at the front desk!
Well, maybe not so forgotten now that COVID-19 put us in our place.
However, it’s important to sanitize your pens when you clean your counter, every time … possibly multiple times per day!
And, put hand sanitizer on the counter.
Remember, it’s the little things.
Celebration is something medical offices often overlook.
The best thing you can do as a Doctor today is write three to five Thank You notes today. And, then do it again tomorrow. And the next day, and every day after that.
This might seem silly but as the CEO or Chick-Fil-A said “Encouragement is never small when you’re on the receiving end.”
And, how can you tell if someone needs encouragement?
The answer Cathy said is “If the other person is breathing, they need encouragement.”
And, he’s right.
Why not let our Doctor do the talking here. Afterall, you have incredible insight and influence in our lives.
As we’ve often said around here “Five words from a Doctor, mean more than fifty about you.”
Treat your best Patients like the rock stars they are.
In the fashion world, celebrities are given the most expensive gowns in which to walk the red carpet.
At conferences, speakers and VIPs are given SWAG Bags.
Maybe you aren’t treating celebrities or hosting a big conference at your practice every day, but you do treat your best customers like VIPs because they are very important people too, right?!
There are so many voices walking through the doors of your practice and then leaving and telling others about their experience with you and what it was like to be in your office.
Believe it or not, we as patients want to brag and say something remarkable about our Doctor. All too often though, there wasn’t anything that remarkable worth sharing.
What do you really want every Patient to say about you after they leave your practice?
What if we treated them like the rock stars and VIPs every one of them truly are?!
Got tips, advice, comments you’d like to share about excellent customer/patient service you’ve seen or applied. Send us an email or come learn more this 2019 at the CMT FORUM, or in the comments below.