Patient Combustion Points In Your Practice

We find Concierge Medicine Doctors are better suited medical offices to be in a position personally, emotionally and professionally to identify these ‘combustion points’ [for Patients] and do something right away in the practice to improve the patient experience sooner rather than later.

Editor of Concierge Medicine Today closes the recent annual CONCIERGE MEDICINE FORUM with some parting words FOR DOCTORS in Atlanta, GA USA. LEARN MORE ABOUT UPCOMING EVENTS HERE … Source: Concierge Medicine Today, LLC.

By Michael Tetreault, Editor-in-Chief, Concierge Medicine Today/Host, The DocPreneur Leadership Podcast

Today we want to look at a few of the common threads in practice leadership which Physicians in Concierge Medicine in our observation, have in spades. It’s commonly perceived that a lot of the Concierge Medicine Physicians you see have exceptional leadership traits as well as an acumen for business and leading others well.

We want to take a minute and explain some of the traits which we see quite often in Concierge Medicine Physicians. Here are our top 4:

4 Traits We Found In Exceptional Concierge Medicine Practices

1. Most (Not All, But Most) Act Decisively.

Concierge Medicine Physicians for the most part, courageous enough to venture into the world of subscription-based healthcare delivery because they’re decisive. They’ve usually come to a fork in the road in their life and career in medicine where the delivery of healthcare needs to be reframed and adjusted. They’re decisive at this fork in the road in a lot of ways. Especially when it comes to making a lot of small decisions and that add up to big changes.

We all see that during this decision-making time, usually over the course of a couple of years, they’re now managing risk better, assessing important from trivial tasks and surrounding themselves with people who share common goals for the practice of medicine and managing people better in their practice. Influential input from team members is a priority for them as well as outside trusted advisors are encouraged and listened to. Everyday decisions have consequences, big and small.

2. They Exude Energy.

Have you every heard someone say, “I don’t know how he/she does it?”

Concierge Medicine Physicians not only have a lot of energy, they spend their time differently from a lot of other practices.

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“I still work the same, if not more hours now as I did when I was working in a traditional, plan reimbursed practice,” said one Concierge Medicine Physician we spoke to in California. “I just spend my time differently now and my patients and I enjoy the tasks a lot more.”

Concierge Medicine Physicians also convey a lot of positive energy in their words and actions. From learning about and studying and changing their own body language between patient and physician inside the exam room to smiling more often … they’ve perfected how they interact with Patients and their staff.

Believe it or not, Patients are very observant of how their Doctor interacts, talks to and interacts with their team. Patients are always watching. It also seems to be a retention point for some Patients. Meaning, if you’re a jerk, rude, demeaning, disrespectful, dismissive, etc., Patients make mental notes of these interactions. It can eventually impact any Doctors patient retention percentages and attrition when it comes to membership renewals.

3. They Empathize, Uplift And, They Never Villainize Naysayers.

If you talk to enough Doctors in Concierge Medicine like we have over the years you will learn that the successful Concierge Medicine Physicians typically stay off Twitter and avoid commenting, ranting or posting inappropriate content in and/or on, online forums.


Well, there’s a number or reasons as you might expect why … and we’ll highlight the first couple or, what we see as the most important ones.

First, a Doctor’s reputation is everything.

Every Physician takes a risk when they hit the ‘Send’, ‘Post’ or the ‘Comment’ and ‘Share’ button on any online platforms.

Second, usually these medical offices and Physicians have full patient panels and they’re simply too busy to post a lot online.

The third reason is because many of these online forums just aren’t designed for any Doctor, let alone ones that are designed to inform, educate and brand a Physician’s practice as an important part of our community.

For example, we just don’t see many Concierge Medicine Physicians posting what the online community would call rants or engaging in a lot of hot topic or charged Tweets and Retweets with strangers online.

Today our special guest is Dr. Nneka Unachukwu. Source/Photo Credit: Dr. Nneka Unachukwu

“If they [Doctors] do participate online, we have observed in Concierge Medicine that Physicians typically will have a thoughtful and well articulated response when involved in an online post conversation,” adds Tetreault. “If they do participate, post a comment, etc., usually they politely reframe the conversation to express their point of view and find a way to compliment the person behind the message(s) which they may or may not agree with.”

One common observation we see with most Concierge Medicine Physicians we’ve spoken to over the years about their online presence is that they try to see through the fog of negativity, resist the urge to rant or quickly provide a rebuttal and look past the opportunity to belittle, gossip or shout their opinion about a subject matter or post that seems as though it has taken on a charged topic.

“For the most part, Concierge Medicine Doctors are seen online empathizing, educating and sharing their opinions when appropriate, all the while providing uplifting commentary,” adds Tetreault.

Please note, any Physician should carefully consider how they brand themselves online and what they share, whether it’s a personal opinion, a political thought or medical education. SoMeDocs does a great job of helping not just Concierge Medicine Physicians, but all Doctors with their social media presence.

4. Constantly Look for ‘Combustion Points’ Within the Patient/Practice Experience.

I read this great book recently … (Disney Institute’s book “Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service”). It talked a lot about “Combustion Points” in the customer service process and experience.

The author stated …  a “Combustion Point” is a term Disney (yup, that Disney) uses to define explosion points within any person to person interaction.

“… spots where even a finely tuned process can break down and, instead of contributing to a positive customer experience, begin to turn a guest’s good day into a bad one. It’s impossible to completely eliminate combustion points, but the goal is to stop them from turning into explosion points.” (*page 24)

Can you guess Disney’s combustion points?

One are the long lines guests stand in waiting for a ride or attraction.

Another is a guest remembering where they parked their vehicle at the end of a long day. Good experiences can turn bad at these points.

It is important that your practice identifies common combustion points.

Why do you think so many Concierge Medicine Physicians removed completely from the interior design of their practice the tired, ugly and dreaded “waiting room” of their entrance over the past ten to fifteen years?

Why did we see the removal of those sliding glass windows when you walk into a primary care or family medicine office and replaced with a plant and a coffee maker?

This is what we’re talking about, a combustion point. “… spots where even a finely tuned process can break down and, instead of contributing to a positive customer experience, begin to turn a guest’s good day into a bad one.”

Disney says look for those places where guests complain consistently.

If you don’t know where these are in your practice, this is your “ah-ha” moment and it might be time to start asking more questions and paying closer to common, small and minor “combustion points” within your practice.

Traffic or parking may not be your combustion point.

But we’ve certainly heard from some Physicians, it can be, based on their geographic location around a hospital or thoroughfare.

Another example might be the time it takes to join sign-up and enroll as a new patient.

If you’re still having trouble determining what your combustion points are, Disney has found that combustion points are commonly found in four areas:

  • guest flow
  • staff/volunteer-to-guest communication
  • guests with special needs
  • poor process design

It really could be any number of things. But it is important that you identify them. We find Concierge Medicine Doctors are better suited medical offices to be in a position personally, emotionally and professionally to identify these ‘combustion points’ [for Patients] and do something right away in the practice to improve the patient experience sooner rather than later.

Maybe they can eliminate a problem. Maybe they can soften a combustion point by making the Patient experience less about routine check-ups and more about future decision-making about health and wellness.

People lead a practice. Doctors lead their community. When Patients visit your practice, it will never be perfect. But, there are systems and processes that frustrate your patients.

We just happen to think Concierge Medicine Doctors are a good barometer by which others in medicine can learn from.

What can you do to create a better patient experience for them? To learn more, attend our annual industry conference, the Concierge Medicine Forum.

Original Post Written, JANUARY 27, 2016; Updated May 3, 2022

* For more information and discussion on combustion points and other Customer Service topics, see the Disney Institute’s book Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service

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