How To Turn Your Patients Into Raving Fans
When you’re first starting out in Private Practice, and whilst you’re growing your online presence, it’s important to make sure that you maximise on getting referrals through word of mouth. In fact, every time you see a patient, you should use it as an opportunity to really give them five-star service. That way, your patients are delighted, it gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling, plus, they naturally tell their friends and colleagues about how amazingly well you looked after them.
So how do you make sure this happens, each and every time?
You need to remember that private practice is all about delivering a service. Yes, it’s a health service, but it’s also an experiential health service.
In private health care, patients are fussy (and quite rightly so).
They’re looking for excellent medical or surgical care. To survive in private practice, you can’t be poor clinically, but here’s the weird thing – you could be the most amazing clinician on the planet, and give the very best advice, but if you don’t get the experience right, you might as well not bother.
To quote Maya Angelou “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Part of the problem of a hectic clinical life, especially if it still involves the NHS, is that you need to remember that patients are people who need your help, are happy to pay for that help, and whom you are happy to serve delightfully well.
Make every step a human experience for the patient.
Have you ever been a patient? In the NHS? In the Private Sector? I’ve had dismal experiences, and amazing experiences, on both sides of the fence. It doesn’t have to cost heaps of cash to wow patients. Often it comes down to great emotional intelligence.
One of the ‘nicest’ patient experiences I ever had was undergoing bilateral knee arthroscopies at University Colleague Hospital London. It was about a decade ago, and I remember being taken to a changing area, and then what I’ll call a pre-op ‘chill out’ area.
It was the NHS. Clean but budget. Nevertheless, there was soothing music and a smiling hospital porter who escorted me in and took me through the different ‘zones’ after I’d left my hubby. I changed into my gown and disposable slippers and sealed up by clothes and phone in a grey bag. I laughed when he joked how he’d get a good price for my belongings on eBay whilst I was under. I didn’t care that he’d probably said the same thing to every patient that day. Then he took me to sit in the ‘fairy light’ zone.
He was helping other patients but came back to see me when he saw me thumbing through a magazine, impatiently turning the pages to pass a few minutes. He knew I was a Doctor but wasn’t in anyway ‘weirded out’ by that, as some healthcare professionals can be when meeting a Consultant in their discipline.
He gently said to me – ‘Hey you, it’s time to let yourself relax, be a patient, and still your mind.. we’ll be taking you in a moment or two’.
It was exactly what I needed to hear, and it didn’t cost a penny. I loved it, because he made me feel like he knew what was best for me, and that he really cared, As a human being.
Ask yourself, the next time you meet a patient, how can you make sure you remember to humanise their experience?
Roll up your sleeves, and sort it.
Becoming a consultant teaches us a certain role. I do the doctoring, and my administrators do the administrating. This doesn’t always lend for a great patient experience.
Private Health care can be complex, and one of the biggest concerns that patients have is that they are unsure of the next steps that need to happen, and often they want those things to happen swiftly. One of the best ways to impress patients is to concierge them through the little things. In case you think you don’t have time for this, think again. Private practice allows you to choose how much time you spend with patients.
I personally love taking two minutes to walk my patients to the imaging desk around the corner, having 30 seconds of conversation whilst their MRI scan slot time is booked in, and then I ping a cut and paste email to my secretary (and the patient) asking them to connect with Mrs Jones for a follow up, because she’s having her MRI this afternoon.
I remind the patient that they’ll need to give BUPA/WPA a ring before, and because I visit the radiology desk so often, the patient witnesses the really nice relationship I have with Rosie, radiology administrator. Rosie always does her best for me, and patients trust in the hospital I am working at, because they see us being a team for them.
Take a few moments to show patients you’ve got it covered, and that they know it’s not up to them to figure out what’s happening next.
Take down the barriers.
This is a big one for many Consultants to get their heads around. The secret to my private practice success is accessibility. Yes, I am great at clinically helping my patients, but also, patients know that they can have access to me – access without heaps of barriers, and apologies.
I’m not talking access all areas, with your mobile number that they can ring on a Sunday morning at 6am, but I am talking about timely responses to emails, and by timely, I mean getting back to the patient by the end of morning or that afternoon. Nothing brews resentment faster that feeling ignored.
Allow yourself to enjoy patients again.
This is actually the most important mind-shift you need to make.
Why did you become a doctor in the first place?
If you’ve been beaten down by NHS work, and have lost the love, private practice can become a welcome haven. Pssstt… I won’t think it’s uncool if you stop seeing patients as the ‘enemy’, and instead, have a bit of banter with them.
If you stand outside my clinic room, you’ll pretty much hear laughter at some point in the consultation. It happens naturally because I really like spending time with my patients.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m still a bad-ass clinician. I know my stuff. I’m Ninja when it comes to hip and groin pain. The change is, I’ve given myself permission to actually enjoy being a Doctor (again).
And guess what? It’s great for business.
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