29 Sep Five Things Doctors Do to Drive Away Patients and Kill Their Practice
Many people have a kind of aversion to going to the doctor. It is a legitimate condition, colloquially recognized as White Coat Syndrome, and causes anxiety, spikes in blood pressure and general uneasiness.
The current environment in the medical provider market is extremely competitive, so individual doctor’s offices must focus on providing both superior medical care and excellent customer service.
Five areas which make or break the success of a physician’s medical practice include:
Unhappy To Help – Unfriendly Office Staff
Surrounding oneself with a highly qualified and friendly staff seems to be a fairly simple concept in theory and yet, it is harder to execute in reality. Too often, the first-line contact for the patient is clerical or administrative personnel that are blatantly rude to patients. Often, the support staff have poorly developed customer service skills. Together, these office conditions have an overwhelmingly negative affect on patients’ opinion of the entire organization.
Generally speaking, friendliness is a personality trait and one that is not malleable. Therefore, it is immeasurably important for whomever is responsible for hiring front end staff to focus on the people skills of the candidates during the interview process.
While the technical skills are important to the effective accomplishment of tasks, staff who are unable to communicate with politeness and caring can give patients a very different view of the practice. Doctors should recognize patient-relation skills and personality traits are not mutually exclusive. These people are literally the face of the organization, as they make the critical first and last impressions on patients.
Conversely, customer service skills can be taught, developed and in a constant state of improvement. Ongoing organizational development should remain a priority for medical providers, in order to continue to provide, maintain and nourish high levels of customer service.
Your Time is My Time – Patient Request and Feeling Important
Since many people avoid going to the doctor unless it is a part of their annual wellness examination or until the symptoms necessitate it can no longer be avoided, the responsiveness of a physician’s office is integral to patients’ perception of professionalism and their general satisfaction.
Another trouble area is the ability to make appointment times convenient for patients. Not all appointment requests need to be considered as emergency, but it is important for the patient or they would not be calling. Offering the first available appointment three months down the road is likely to be received as unaccommodating or indifferent.
It is a difficult balancing act between accommodating emergency appointments and overbooking. Patients consider their time to be just as valuable as the physician’s. Offices who consistently overbook and have repeated waiting periods of greater than fifteen minutes should re-evaluate their scheduling policies.
When EF Hutton Talks – Do Doctors Listen to Patients?
Like fingerprints, each patient is a ubiquitous individual with a unique family history, eating habits, exercise and lifestyle that affect their general health and wellness. While the doctor often has hundreds of patients, the patient has only one doctor.
When a patient reports a problem, the doctor can be sure that, most of the time, the patient has tried other routes to cure the issue before making an appointment. Sometimes, listening to the answers is as informative as designing the right questions.
Improvement of bedside manner can be achieved by increasing attentiveness, improving listening skills, providing feedback, and making the individual patient feel like they matter. By simply being present with the patient in the moment for each and every appointment, patients feel like they have the full attention of physician with all of the power of his medical expertise.
In Dog Years – Failure to Follow Up on Medical Tests
Most patients take doctors at their word, which is the way it should be if a patient is consulting a competent medical professional. Just as waiting for three months for an appointment sends the wrong message, waiting for weeks for test results promised in two days breaks confidence with the patient and send them a message of non-importance to their doctor.
When a doctor requests medical tests, the patient perceives there is a reason and become anxious. Every moment is a year when waiting to hear the results of medical tests. Prompt and friendly follow-ups on test results are imperative, as people are anxiously waiting to find out what is wrong with them.
Failure to file or code correctly, over-billing patient insurance, and a lack of organizational communication are frequent complaints against the staffs of doctors’ offices are huge service issues in a physicians practice.
Medical offices should develop a policy of returning calls or providing feedback within a specified period of time to gauge patient satisfaction and referral likelihood.
Is Your Online Reputation Sick? – Patient Reviews and the Practice
Most people find their medical providers by word of mouth, recommendations from family and friends, online satisfaction surveys, professional assessments and/or peer reviews. In addition to the competencies of the physician, rude and/or incompetent staff can negatively impact the reputation of the business.
Online patient reviews, through Yelp®, Facebook®, Google+®, and other social media channels are greatly influencing how new patients pick a doctor and how current patients report the services of their doctor.
Given that the only people making any money in the medical field today are the HMOs and pharmaceutical companies, individual medical providers must find a healthy balance between providing a high level of quality medical care and exemplary customer service to maximize their margin and maintain a solid reputation.
Anything and everything the doctor and his administrative staff can do to improve their customer service is critical to their financial and reputation success.
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