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Feature | Mar/Apr '14

Customers or Guests?

Patients—are they customers or guests? It’s really up to you, as the experience you provide will most certainly define the place they hold in your practice.

In the year 2014, patients are no longer individuals suffering from an ailment that come to see you for the remedy. They are unique, knowledgeable, and inquisitive people who want the very best for their eyes. They are a captive audience, willing to listen to all of the innovative options available to them, and they curiously await your expertise to guide them to their best vision possible. They are keenly aware of the service they receive everywhere—the grocery store, their favorite shopping venue, and, most certainly, their physician’s office.

So, how do you handle these people in a manner that addresses their clinical needs AND provides an experience that offers exceptional customer service and the utmost in comfort and care? By thinking holistically and transforming your patient into a guest. But, before we talk about how to morph your experience from ordinary to extraordinary, let’s take a little self-test:

1. Do your patients receive information about their upcoming visit in advance?
2. How long do your patients wait upon arrival to your practice? (The real wait time, not the one you think you have.)
3. When does the education process start in your practice?
4. Who educates your patients?
5. How does the loop get closed? (Meaning, what happens next?)

Now, instead of making assumptions on the above, I challenge you to find out the real answers to those questions. To do so, follow these steps:

1. Conduct a time-test on every aspect of a patient’s journey.
2. Survey 10 patients on their experience in your office.
3. Interview each staff member that touches the patient during his or her journey.
4. Call your patient office line regularly. What do your patients hear on hold, and how long do they wait? How efficiently are they scheduled?

Let’s talk about the patient journey … and how to create guests from the first “hello.”

Patient education isn’t a step but a journey. The patient journey you create along with the tools you implement will make all the difference in creating a beneficial educational experience. It is critical that your practice educates patients on your elective products multiple times prior to seeing the surgeon because it:

• Reduces your chair time and patient doubt;
• Eases the patient’s burden by reducing information overload; and
• Increases the likelihood that the patient will remember and understand these options.

You have seven opportunities to educate patients about your product offerings prior to their arrival in your chair. You should be capitalizing on at least five of these for EVERY patient.

1. Website
2. On-hold service
3. Welcome packet and greeting
4. Lobby materials
5. DVD patient education
6. Technician introduction
7. Patient exam lanes

Remember, it is important to start educating patients early. Keep them informed about their options long before they are candidates.

All it takes is a little time and effort to ensure that your patient journey provides an exceptional experience from start to finish. Check your process frequently and encourage your staff to deliver a level of service that clearly defines your practice as one who welcomes guests, not patients.

Wouldn’t YOU rather be a guest than a patient?

Dawn Thompson

Dawn Thompson is the President of Sandbox Strategic, a unique, creative marketing agency that specializes in health care for the pharmaceutical, medical device, and biotech spaces. Ms. Thompson may be reached at dthompson@sandboxstrategic.com.

Amy Jacobs

Amy Jacobs is the Vice President of Sandbox Strategic, a unique, creative marketing agency that specializes in health care for the pharmaceutical, medical device, and biotech spaces. Ms. Jacobs may be reached at ajacobs@sandboxstrategic.com.