The pandemic has changed business in many ways. In no industry is that more prevalent than in the healthcare industry. COVID has accelerated many areas of technology to care for patients remotely. And at healthcare practices there are new protocols awaiting patients coming to see providers in person.
Here are some simple things to consider when interacting with patients in 2021:
Scheduling the appointment:
This is the first impression a patient has with a practice. It sets the tone for all other interaction with the practice. Make sure your phone message is easy to quickly get to a live person to make an appointment. Do not have unimportant information in your intro message. For example, very few people are calling to get your fax number, but if they are, have that information as a numbered option and not in the general greeting. Getting patients to schedule an appointment should be the top priority of your phone system.
The first live person they talk to at your practice is also very important. A friendly, welcoming tone is needed. Be very clear about the appointment day and time (and LOCATION if there is more than one location.) Make patients aware of any texts or emails they may receive prior to their appointment, links to fill out pre-appointment paperwork, and arrival time for their first appointment if it’s earlier than their appointment time.
Texts/email appointment reminders should also include any COVID protocols so patients know what to expect at their appointment. Any changes to how many people can come to the appointment, temperature screening and mask requirements, other safety measures you are taking in the waiting room can all be addressed with patients at this time so they feel more comfortable keeping their appointment.
At the Appointment:
One thing to always remember in the healthcare industry is most of the people you see in a doctor’s office are not at their best. They have an illness or injury that is causing them to seek medical care, which is why they are at the practice in the first place. The people in the front office have the essential task of making patients feel welcomed and valued from the moment they step into the practice. A warm smile and pleasant tone go a long way in making patients feel cared for. Many people have not been out and about as often since the pandemic, so going to a doctor’s appointment can be a little more stressful than it would have been before.
Check-in kiosks help make sure patient information is accurate and flows directly into the medical software, but some people may have trouble with this process. Assigning someone on staff to help with kiosk check-in is helpful. Also, many patients are accustomed to going directly to the reception desk with questions, to check-in or to give medical information. Make sure they are greeted quickly and warmly and help direct them to the proper protocol.
Vitals / Triage:
When taking patients to the exam rooms be sure the staff taking them back introduces themselves and explains what the next steps of the appointment are. If this staff member is asking questions and making notes for the provider, make sure they are taking the time to really listen and not making the patient feel rushed. Eye contact is very important to making patients feel “heard”.
Providers are on a busy schedule, especially on clinic days. Making the patients feel like they are the most important appointment of the day is good practice. Greet everyone in the room, go over any notes you have about the patient’s illness/injury with the patient, then ask if there are any other details they need to share. It’s amazing how much more information you will get if you just ask that one more question. Make sure the patient has a clear understanding of the treatment/next steps before leaving the room.
This is the last impression a patient has of a practice, making this a very vital for a great patient experience. Be certain all the provider’s instructions are understood and give printed follow-up materials when you can. (Review printed materials from time to time to make sure there is not contradictory information. As treatment plans evolve over time make sure the information is consistent on all paperwork.) Double check that prescriptions are sent to the correct pharmacy. Make the next appointment, if needed.
Text or email the patient the day after the appointment to make thank them for trusting your practice with their healthcare needs. This is also the ideal opportunity to include a link for reviews on Google or Healthgrades. It’s hard to get people to take the time to write a review. Adding an offer of a monthly gift card drawing for those who write reviews can increase participation.
Want more tips on how to better engage your patients? Let’s talk.