Can you guess how long it takes for someone to form a first impression? Three to five seconds! That’s the equivalent to the time it takes to blink. And negative first impressions are difficult (sometimes impossible) to overcome. That’s why it’s critical to ensure that your patients form a positive first impression about, well, everything.
Take off your medical leader hat for a moment and stand in your patients’ shoes. Go outside your office’s front door and enter as your patients would. What do you see, hear, and feel? Is your office space welcoming? How many times does your phone ring before it’s answered? When — and how — does your staff welcome a newcomer? How do you greet a patient once he’s inside the exam room? Are your staff members dressed in a way that denotes a team atmosphere?
These factors are important but the truth is first impressions typically occur when a potential patient visits your website. Does your site reflect you and your specialty? Is it easy to navigate? Does it feel inviting? Can a visitor easily locate your contact information and address?
Once a patient arrives on site, another impression is formed. Was the outdoor signage helpful? Are there adequate parking spaces available in a well-lit lot?
Do you feel overwhelmed with the possibilities for failure or energized by the potential to create a first-class culture where your patients feel nurtured and welcomed from the moment they interact with you and your staff?
Here’s the great news: you can make changes that set your team up for success. When a patient has an excellent experience, patient satisfaction soars!
- Patients feel valued and seen as an individual, not a number
- Patient’s cooperate
- Patients become an excellent referral source
- Staff builds rapport with patients
- Fewer mistakes or mess-ups
So how does one begin and where?
Consider orthopedic surgeon Dr. Amal Das’ experience:
“In a bold move, my practice changed its affiliation to a new hospital. We had on our staff a lot of raw talent but lacked discipline and teamwork. Our patient etiquette was, frankly, abysmal. Upon arrival patients sat in a dark and outdated waiting room. On Friday dress down day, my staff wore jeans and sweatshirts! Not only did we not look like a team, we didn’t act like one either.
“We called a patient experience expert Darlene Das. The first thing she did was hold a full staff meeting where she listened to each member of our team. From there, she sprang into action! The first transformation changed our dark waiting room to an oasis of patient comfort. There were coordinated pictures on the walls. A complimentary soda machine dispensed cold beverages. She added a fully-stocked coffee station, again complimentary. A television was installed. She even created a faux fireplace with a mantle, which my staff enjoys decorating seasonally. These were the most noticeable improvements from our patients’ perspective. But our staff loved their new, matching uniforms! Also, Darlene had me treat all the female staff to mini-makeovers where they learned how to do their makeup for the office. These changes helped our staff look and feel like a team. (Plus, the women loved feeling pampered!)
“From there, the hard work began: we learned about medical and business etiquette. Little things like where to place our name badges, how to properly answer the phone, and how to deal with patient complaints. We also learned about dining etiquette by going out for a team dinner and putting our new techniques to the test.
“Suddenly, our staff morale improved. Their work ethic soared. And our patients were the recipients of powerful positive teamwork. Our transformation was so impressive that the hospital administrators wanted to learn our secret. They wanted the entire hospital to be like us! We felt on top of the world!”
Does Dr. Das’ before story sound familiar? If so, here are ten things you can evaluate today so you, too, can have a world-class medical practice:
- How does your staff greet patients?
- What are your staff and providers wearing? Are the uniforms coordinated showing teamwork?
- How are your team members talking amongst themselves or to others?
- Is your waiting room inviting? Do the chairs look worn and are they uncomfortable?
- What’s the average wait time before a patient is seen?
- Are the reading materials displayed neatly? Are they current?
- Is the carpet/flooring free of stains?
- How do the rooms smell?
- Are your exam rooms neat and tidy, free from strong, unpleasant odors?
- Do you look your patients’ in their eyes and call them by name?
Once you’ve taken stock of your office and staff, you can begin to make positive changes. Leave a comment below to share your findings. Were you surprised by what you found?
If you’re ready to learn more, download my book, “The Quadruple Aim Solution” and begin today to create a practice you love!