Today’s healthcare landscape is incredibly patient-driven. Patient service is no less than a “religion” for medical practitioners and their staff. A plethora of choices and mass customization mean medical practices must fight for patients’ business. It is not only service and price that practices must compete on but the patient experience, as well.
With recent advances in digital technologies, patient service has been changing at lightning speed. Social media interactions between patients and practices are driving engagement to new levels. Patients’ expectations and attitudes are changing, driven by millennials who are putting greater emphasis on patient service.
So how can patient service departments and medical practitioners capitalize on the latest technologies while navigating a complex patient-centric healthcare marketplace? A polite, always-available and well-informed patient service department can make a big difference. That is why your physicians and the patient-facing team should always remember the following commandments of patient service – and make sure they follow each one of these commandments:
1. Respect the patient
Every relationship, personal or professional, starts with respect. In the absence of mutual regard for each other, there is no relationship. It is not an emotionally fulfilling experience for either party involved. The patient wants to be honored, to feel important and appreciated. How can we show respect to the patient? We can do this by giving full attention to every interaction with the patient and by speaking his or her language.
Patients value sincerity. Honest involvement with their pain points is one of the easiest ways to show that you care and generate positive vibes for your practice.
2. Make it stress-free for patients to do business with your practice
There are a couple of things that you can do to make it pleasant for patients.
Be easy to reach and available. Whether it is a new appointment or a follow-up, patients want to know that they will be listened to and helped. Your staff’s availability is one of the first things that create respect and trust.
While interacting with patients, inform them of what is happening, and respond quickly. You can use the latest patient support solutions to empower the speed and efficiency of your interactions with patients.
Educate patients so that they feel free and confident to use your products and services. Knowledge is the ultimate power, and if you empower your patients instead of trying to make them dependent on your practice and services, they will feel grateful and will be willing to come back to you.
3. Listen more and talk less
Listening is the first step to understanding your patients. Usually, everyone emailing your patient service team has a problem to share – and if your staff does not listen, they will never get to understand the patient’s problem.
Some patients might be frustrated and want to know that their struggle is being heard, and others might have health problems you can quickly resolve for them. Allow them to vent it all, empathize with them and let them know you listened to what they said. Once their emotions subside, they will be in a more receptive mood for advice, and you will be able to guide them toward a solution.
Make sure to take the time to establish that you are listening on calls and chat conversations when you cannot get your patients. Respond to statements and questions to confirm your comprehension, and repeat what patients have said to make sure you both have understood each other.
4. Educate your patients
Knowledge is the ultimate power, and teaching patients how to solve their problems will empower them and give them a sense of control. You can help patients take control of their health and transform themselves – and no matter who your patients are, you can teach them something new that will establish your worth to them and make them more appreciative.
If you can teach a patient how to take care of their medication and appointment schedules, instead of a frustrated patient you have put him or her on the path toward satisfaction and better health outcomes. And once your patients understand how to take care of their health on their own, they will not reach out to you often for personal assistance – saving them time and money and helping them be more independent.
5. Pay attention to their problems
An essential aspect of active listening is paying attention. Though multitasking is an excellent tool for enhancing productivity, the patient you are dealing with is more important.
If you miss the details of a patient’s problem and the patient is asked to repeat them, he or she will feel disrespected and ignored. Listening is not just about hearing what they say – it is also about understanding all of what they want to say.
It’s almost impossible for people to truly multitask. Doing several things at once usually means you are doing them inefficiently. Instead, block off time each day on your calendar to completing tasks outside of patient service. This will help you remain focused and attentive when you hop on a chat or a call with your patient.
6. Never interrupt your patients
If you are trying to help a patient on his or her timetable, do not rush the patient off the phone.
You might think that you will achieve better outcomes if you handle more patient cases on any given day – which requires efficient handling of each phone call or email. However, you should put in extra effort – and additional time – to resolve patients’ issues and give them advice for a healthier lifestyle.
Practices that invest in patients’ success achieve better outcomes – including happier patients an improved bottom line. So when you are on a call, take your time, listen well and be polite – it might take longer, but you will likely achieve better results for your patient, your staff and your practice.
7. Apologize quickly
This is a massive one. When you are wrong, do not just admit it, apologize. Apologizing is not a sign of powerlessness, but strength. This also means you are confident and strong enough to accept what has happened. What happens afterward is what is going to count. This is the time when you fix what must be fixed. If you want to say you are sorry, say it right away. Your apology should be the first thing out of your mouth. This is because it costs nothing to apologize. It is not about admitting fault, but expressing that you feel sorry that your patient was inconvenienced.
Some of these tips might be difficult to implement and time-consuming, and they may not instantly lead to increased revenue. However, if you are having doubts whether you have the time and resources to improve patient service, ask yourself: “How desperately do I want patients not to visit competitors and come into my practice?”!