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Make it easy for patients to use and love your practice by prioritizing the patient experience and see repeat business, referrals, and revenue grow.
Remember that time you couldn’t find a business’s suite, or wandered a department store looking for a sales clerk, or grew agitated while waiting on hold for customer service? I often wonder how a business could overlook these inconveniences that make it difficult for customers to give them their money (i.e., use their services or buy their products). I resolve myself that, much like practice leaders and physicians, the decision-makers simply aren’t aware of some of the frustrations of customers – they may be too far removed. Some of this has to do with gathering and responding to feedback – a topic we covered in last month’s article. But some of it is simply a lack of attention to detail-and it costs businesses millions in sales, repeat business and referrals every year.
Patients have choices
Even though it may seem unorthodox, patients would like to be treated as customers, or even clients, who have choices about where they spend their healthcare dollars. As a healthcare business, patients are at the core of what you do every day. But, just like in any business, sometimes the functions and tasks of serving customers – or, in your case, caring for patients - can distract us from their most basic needs and wants. We lose sight of ways that we can make it easier for them to come to us, utilize our services and fall in love with our practices.
Customer service is the obvious point here, but what does that really mean? A practice must define what constitutes “acceptable customer service,” in very specific terms. For example, how many rings are acceptable before a call is picked up? How long should a caller have to wait on hold? If a patient is told they’ll get a call back, can we promise that within an hour, two hours or by the end of the day? Defining, measuring and holding your practice accountable to these parameters is key to consistently hitting the mark of truly good customer service.
Defining good customer service
Defining customer service for your practice should also include determining what resources will be required to meet that target. Without enough support, training or staff, even the most service-minded employee will be unable to deliver on the patient experience. Properly determining and dedicating the necessary resources will set the stage for accountability and success in making your services easy, convenient and pleasant to utilize.
Think of the ways patients seek your services and how easy or difficult it may be for them to do so. For example, when patients can finally take time during their lunch breaks to make personal calls to set up an appointments, do they find your practice MIA because your entire staff just took off for lunch? Not only is this frustrating for the patient, it significantly reduces your ability to capture new patients and repeat business.
More practice management
Efficiency, availability, affability
In the new age of healthcare, private practices have to compete with pharmacy-clinics and aesthetic practices are expected to deliver spa-like experiences. The traditional lunch hour shutdown is considered old-fashioned and compromises both efficiency and the patient experience. Implementing a lunch hour shutdown means missing about 20% of the day’s calls and then duplicating work when staff listen and respond to messages and patients call back again anyway. Some patients won’t call back, and appointment opportunities will be lost altogether. This is just one example of how medical practices can unwittingly make themselves difficult to work with and hurt their business.
Think about how patients experience your practice every day, especially in the modes they use to make and navigate through appointments. Too often, practices will say they are serving patients, yet unwittingly fall short of being convenient, informative and pleasant. You can make it easy for patients to use and love your practice by prioritizing the patient experience and see repeat business, referrals, and revenue grow!
Important points to consider:
Parking –Is it adequate in distance, availability and handicap accessibility?
Suite location and signage – Simply put, is your suite easy to find and get to?
Digital forms – Can new patient forms be filled out and sent ahead of first visits?
Payment options – Do patients have the ability to pay via credit card, online, or create payment plans?
Live phone coverage during all business hours – The doctor may be at lunch but there’s no need to stop scheduling appointments and taking messages like refill requests.
Utilizing EHR notes – Reduce the need for patients to repeat themselves with less duplicated questions; implement staff note-taking and utilization from your charting system.
Staying on time – Find the glitches that sabotage your schedule and fix them. Increased efficiency boosts profitability and the patient experience.
Convenient hours – Creatively meeting patients’ needs with extended or weekend hours can boost revenue and doesn't have to mean giving up your life.
Restroom – Sounds silly, but this basic facility requirement should be easy to find and pleasant to use.
Website – Have your practice phone number at the top of every webpage. Making all pertinent information easy to find reduces unnecessary calls to the practice.