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Practice Managers | Jan/Feb '14

The Missed Opportunity

If you are a cataract and/or refractive surgeon, you have probably discovered a few important tactics to help you survive in a highly competitive market. Say, you have a comfortable, state-of-the-art center with beautiful décor. You impress your patients when they call with a wonderful patient counselor who “smiles and welcomes” through the phone. Your front office staff is “happy” to see your patients walk through the door and offers them a nice welcoming beverage. And YOU are convinced that you are the best surgeon in town! You are engaging in conversation and talk to your patients in a caring and unrushed manner.

So, are your patients walking out your door saying, “Wow! That was the best experience I have ever had?” If everyone else has discovered the same keys to patient satisfaction as you, then probably not. However, there is a difference you can make: The missed opportunity is with your technical staff. We all know that good techs are hard to find. But in today’s highly competitive market, what exactly should we be looking for? Personality, personality, personality! A high-quality technician is someone who is friendly and outgoing and who YOU like when you interview them. They ask questions about you, compliment your office, sit on the edge of their chair, and are engaging in conversation. Sounds like a sales person, right? Right.

In the past, when we hired techs, we focused on their skills first and their personality second. Switch it up! You can teach technical skills to someone with a great personality and ambition, but the reverse is not as true and can have a negative impact on the superior patient experience you are striving to provide. The techs who work for me will greet patients by name, walk over to them, shake their hand, and introduce themselves. As they walk the patient to the exam lane, they thank new patients for coming in to see us and ask how they heard about our practice. For established patients, the techs will ask, “How have you been?”

My techs are also educators, explaining every test to patients and how the surgeon will use “their” hard work to determine the correct diagnosis. They hurry when they have a patient with a strict time schedule, and they slow down to help the patient who has extra questions. My techs understand that this visit is the patient’s experience, not theirs. Therefore, we have to adapt to whatever patient personality we encounter. As you can imagine, it takes very special people to pull this off.

The good news for the surgeon is that a great tech will often tell you all about the patient, including about his or her demeanor, before you even walk through the door. Our surgeon finds this very helpful, and the patients love that their surgeon already knows how they are doing before they walk in the door to see them. In the past, when I was a consultant, I called this the “hand-off.”

The final icing on the cake is when the tech can personally walk patients to check out, help them make their next appointment, and thank them again for coming in. This is usually when we hear, “This has been wonderful, and I am going to tell all my friends about you!” (YES!) That is the cue to hand patients our business cards and a list of all the social media sites we are on (Facebook, Vitals, Ratemd, etc.) so that they can comment publically about their experience. And they will!

If I have not sold you on this missed opportunity, then consider one more thing: Who spends the most time with your patients—you or your techs? Techs are the first to develop relationships with patients, and their bond with them is much deeper than you will ever have time for. This relationship is imperative to a high-end patient experience, and I assure you that your patient referrals will climb. As an added bonus, you will enjoy working with these techs as well!

Alisa P. Brill

Alisa P. Brill is the Site Manager at Magill Vision Center at the Medical University of South Carolina in Mount Pleasant. Ms. Brill may be reached at brilla@musc.edu.