When the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems and other survey tools are provided to patients, they ask patients about the aspects of their experiences that are important to them. In other words, they ask patients to tell us what that individual patient cares about when related to their medical experience. Many of the questions focus on the communications and interactions between providers, staff and the patient. If the “professionals” are seen to be disengaged, distracted, or indifferent, the patient feels neglected, rushed, and under-informed.
Unlike most articles, the purpose of this blog post is not to tell your employees to smile more—though that won’t hurt. It is to look at the visual and communication aspects of your culture and office surroundings with the goal of adding more “optics” that you care.
Your first impression with the patient—and the best chance to create a lasting satisfaction score is their initial contact with you—whether it is the phone, social media, website, or “rating” sites. Be diligent on keeping your website current, your social media active, and your reviews high. Not every patient is going to love you, but how you handle the poor review is critical. You may need to train front office staff on the correct way to answer calls, how to make your website and social media robust, and how to handle less than stellar reviews.
Your first in person impression is just as important. The power of an office makeover is amazing. From a talent development perspective, data reported on CBS reveals that most employees would be willing to work up to one hour longer in a nicer environment. From a patient’s perspective, there is a “Halo” effect on a visually inviting entrance area. The patient immediately has a positive vibe and releases more positive energy.
As any home makeover show will tell you, these changes do not need to be drastic. Things as simple as painting the office in bright, cheerful colors; having “welcome” signs in the lobbies; and using flowers, plants, and balloons in the offices can have a major impact to the look of the office. Reducing cluttered space is another way to make the office seem breezier and more inviting and technology can help here. Move your announcements, which are typically posted around the reception area, to a HDTV-based education station in your waiting room. This approach neatens the appearance of the office and puts everything in a usable format that everyone can see without cluttering up the business area of the room.
To go a step further, get rid of those outdated posters on the walls and pamphlets on the tables and add instructional and engaging videos to your education station to drive home your “care for the patient” message. People watch more than 100 billion videos on YouTube, why would they want to read your posters and pamphlets on health and wellness? Speak to the patients in their preferred language.
You also need to make navigation easier. Include the locations and provider profiles of likely referrals on your education station. For instance, orthopedic offices can tell the patients where the radiology office, physical therapist, and DME providers are located and how to reach them to make an appointment.
When the patient is in their exam room, don’t let them stare at the walls. Instead, hand them a tablet that has tons of information about the reason for their visit. This not only occupies their time, but prepares them to have a real conversation with the provider and team. Arm your patients with a tool to be prepared for their appointment at their time of need. This simple tip increases engagement tremendously because the patient does not need to think of questions cold turkey. You are guiding their behavior without them knowing it.
What’s more, as you know from my previous posts, personal communication is vital to building relationships that are satisfying and profitable. After the appointment, send the patient a thank you email with some homework. Include a video or two that reinforces what the provider said and encourage your patients to live healthier. This thank you note is a great place to sneak in your survey. The patient will already feel like you care. A week after the appointment, follow up with your patient to see how they are following your prescribed treatment plan and if they have any questions. This simple customer service technique enables you to avoid issues due to a knowledge deficit and provides additional motivation to the patient to stay on track.
The exciting thing is that these soft business skills not only show that your team cares, they help increase profitability. Scores of business white papers and articles (a quick search on www.TD.org yielded 531 results) show the correlation between personalized service, customer buy-in, and increases in overall sales, per-person sales, and overall bottom-line growth.
Want to learn more? Join me October 9 for the ATD webcast, Changing the Perceived Culture of Indifference in Care.