Dear doctors, here’s how to make a good first impression
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
What do patients experience when they go to your practice? Have you ever looked at online reviews just to see what kind of feedback you've received? If not, maybe now is the time to start.
First impressions can determine whether positive or negative reviews are left online, so it's important to be mindful of the way your practice is being perceived.
Whether it's a simple checkup or seeking treatment for an illness, injury, pain or any other medical condition, people visit the doctor's office for a variety of reasons — most of which are unpleasant. From the countless experiences I've had seeing different medical specialists, one positive one in particular stands out.
Last year, I moved and needed to switch doctors, so I set up an appointment at a new medical practice with a female family physician. From the waiting room to the exam table, the first visit alone left such an impact on me that I couldn't help but compare that positive experience to the negative ones I'd had in the past. As a result, I chose her to be my new primary care provider.
Simply put, all it takes is one good first impression to gain another patient. Looking back on my experiences, these key takeaways come to mind and are worth implementing in your practice:
1. Be creative with the exam room décor
Previously, every exam room I've waited in has been the same — the standard sterile room with the occasional flu shot poster or chart of the human skeleton plastered on the white walls. The healthcare information can be a bit overwhelming with the clinical setting it creates. For that reason, these rooms only heighten my anxiety as I wait for the doctor to open the door.
But with this medical practice, the room I was led into had walls lined with sports memorabilia, so I commented to the nurse, who then mentioned that every room has a different theme, such as crosses, birds and even a Coca-Cola room kept locked when vacant because of its expensive collection.
The nurse also mentioned that the room décor gives patients and nurses something to talk about to break the ice, which is exactly what happened with us.
So instead of having the stereotypical exam room, make the decision to personalize the rooms. I found the interior design had a calming effect on me as I sat down and gazed around. It felt like I was in someone else's home instead of a doctor's office, so it was easy to relax while I waited, which in turn made the wait feel not as long.
Another idea would be to have your staff decorate the waiting room to correspond with each upcoming holiday rather than keeping it the same all the time.
2. Hire a friendly staff to deliver great customer service
The first two staff members encountered when going to the doctor's office are the receptionist followed by the nurse. So it's important for them to be kind as it can help make the environment warm and welcoming rather than cold and off-putting. If there's a sign-in sheet, the receptionist still needs to acknowledge the patient — a friendly "hello" can go a long way.
Customer service is important, and it impacts the type of review that is left online. Vanguard Communications developed software to analyze 34,748 Google+ reviews of medical providers submitted by patients and found that the leading distinction between doctors who are rated highly versus poorly lies within customer service. It also found that "the top 3 customer service complaints were poor communication, long wait times and rude staff."
This is another factor that stood out to me during my recent doctor's visit. Everyone I encountered greeted me with a smile and presented themselves as genuinely caring and attentive.
When I had to give blood, I became nauseated to the brink of passing out, but the two nurses in the room with me took charge. They helped me into a wheelchair, wheeled me back to the exam room and insisted I lie down until I felt better. They both seemed concerned and made what could have been an embarrassing experience, painless.
For the past three years, Software Advice has conducted surveys of patients in the U.S. to learn about their usage of online reviews. In 2016, it found that out of about 1,400 patients, 77 percent of them refer to online reviews when choosing a new doctor. That number has only grown steadily each year.
With this in mind, don't let your practice join the list of others that rack up negative reviews because of inadequate customer service.
3. Handle patients with care and avoid making assumptions
I once went to a doctor at my university's clinic who made inaccurate assumptions about my sexual health. I had symptoms of a urinary tract infection, so she believed that's what I had and disregarded the possibility that I could have another lesser known illness.
She repeatedly asked me the same question with a look of suspicion on her face, refusing to believe the answer I kept giving her. Because of the assumptions she made about me and my medical condition, she ended up misdiagnosing me.
Needless to say, I never went back to that doctor again. Instead, I went to a second one who humbly admitted she couldn't accurately diagnose me and then referred me to a urologist who was able to finally give me the correct diagnosis. This is what the first doctor should have done rather than assume she was right and that I must have been lying about my own health.
When I was a teenager, a pediatrician bluntly asked me if I was anorexic because I was underweight — still am to this day, but not because of any medical condition. I was offended to be asked such a straightforward question.
I understand that may be a concern doctors might have of their patients, but there's a proper way to approach the subject without coming off as accusatory. There are probably a number of health concerns doctors feel they need to address with certain patients, but if these are sensitive issues, they should be treated with care.
Just as staff friendliness is important, so is a doctor's bedside manner.
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