2021 New Years Resolution: See Your Practice Through Your Patient’s Eyes
By Practice Growth January 06, 2021
Eye care practice owners might occasionally wonder what can be done to improve the patient experience. The answer is actually straightforward: start with the patient. But in actuality, it's not as simple as it sounds. Over time we become set in our ways of running the office and often ignore what might be too obvious to someone coming in from outside. So let's retrace our steps and reimagine the patient experience - by seeing the practice through the patient's eyes.
In a previous article, I discussed the importance of your online presence in making that critical first impression with prospective patients. But here we'll focus on the next part of the patient experience. Let’s picture that you - as the patient - are walking into your optical for the first time. What general impression does the space give? Clean or messy? Spacious and airy, or cramped and cluttered? This is especially relevant now, with everyone paying close attention to social distancing guidelines and sanitization protocols. There are still people hesitant to show up to their annual check-ups. Patients want to feel safe, and walking into a place that looks clean can help communicate that reassurance.
Next, take a look at the frame boards. You might know exactly where each frame brand and type is, but pretend for a moment you're a patient who is browsing. What do you see? Presentation plays a role in frame sales. Here are a few do’s and don'ts:
Do keep your frame boards neatly organized.
Don't mix up different brands.
Do make it a habit to return frames to their original spots when putting them away and train your staff to do the same.
Don't leave empty spaces in your display, especially those that are at eye level.
Your front office staff is the face of the practice
From the first greeting to the time your patients walk out with their eyewear, your staff play a significant role in the patient experience. Observe how they greet patients, how they communicate wait times, and how well they follow up with the patients throughout the visit in general. If it gets busy, it's easy to temporarily “forget” the patient who is waiting, even for 10 minutes. But remember: from the patient’s viewpoint, they might as well be the only person in the office. Most patients, however, would not voice their concerns directly; instead, you might find that surprising, online review mentioning how the patient experienced a lack of communication during their visit. You may look back and think, “but they seemed fine when they were here!” Checking in with the patient throughout the visit and giving them updates on what will be happening next are easy ways to improve patient satisfaction. Being mindful of each individual patient-their wait times, what amenities they have available to them in the waiting room, etc.-will show your dedication to providing a positive patient experience along with great vision care.
“Thank you for calling!”
Phone etiquette is another area you need to scrutinize. Does your staff sound warm and genuine when they answer the phone? Or is their tone curt and dry? We've all called that one medical office where we were greeted by a cold “Doctor's office” instead of even a basic “good morning, how can I help you?” If it's a new patient calling for the first time, an unenthusiastic response can be an immediate turn off and motivation to call another practice. If it's an existing customer calling about an issue, being met with a positive vibe from the start can go a long way in putting the patient at ease. To get an impartial assessment of this aspect of customer service, consider asking a friend or colleague to contact your practice. This will help you gain a whole new perspective and pinpoint the areas of staff training that need improvement. In the meantime, make these few pointers part of your phone etiquette handbook:
Always answer the phone with a warm greeting and an offer to help
Avoid putting patients on hold as soon as they call; at least learn the reason for the call
There’s no such thing as too many “please” and “thank you’s” especially in situations before putting the patient on hold
Never tell the patient that’s calling that you are busy with patients. They’re your patients, too!
Listen to feedback
When you are spending every day in your practice, it's easy to assume that the way you run the place is the only way to do it. Routine can be great, but with all the innovations in the industry, your “set in stone” workflow might come across as redundant and outdated. For example, if your front desk is still handing new patients paperwork to fill out, ask yourself if you'd enjoy doing all that paperwork when YOU come in for a doctor's appointment. Likely not! This is an easy illustration because you’ve probably heard - and dismissed - patients’ complaints about it. Maybe you even responded with something along the lines of “this is required for new patients.” But let’s think outside the box and the next time a patient or even a staff member brings up some aspect of the patient experience, pause and think about what can be done differently. Too often, we end up learning about our mistakes in retrospect, after reading that surprising one-star review left by a disgruntled patient. Try to gather feedback before this happens by encouraging patients to share thoughts about their visit. There are both specialized survey platforms such as SurveyMonkey and more general patient recall systems like SolutionReach, both of which can help you customize quick patient surveys.
Always be open to new ideas
Keep an open mind for new ideas. Allow yourself to be inspired by what you come across outside of your own practice or even outside of this industry. To go back to our example about the check-in forms, did you even have to sit and fill out physical paperwork upon arriving at a specialist? Or did you have the forms sent to you electronically, pre-appointment? With a platform such as FormDr you can build your own electronic patient intake forms that your patients can fill out pre-appointment, saving everyone time.
Don’t make the mistake of turning your practice into a time capsule! Remember that serving your patients’ needs is the reason you are in the healthcare industry. By allowing yourself to take a more critical approach, to even the smaller details, you can truly set a standard for five-star service in your practice.