Creating A Patient-Centered Practice

We have found that patient-centered vein practices enjoy a stable, growing base of loyal patients who are excellent sources of referrals, and who willingly pay their bills on time. Patient-centered practices are measurably more profitable. And quite frankly, when everyone within the practice is clear about the focus, a patient-centered practice is simply a much more fulfilling workplace.

  1. Create a mission statement for your practice, with patient focus at its heart. Share that mission statement with your employees and display it somewhere your patients can see it. As the owner of your practice, set the tone with your own behavior and reward your team with incentives for embodying and acting on this vision.
  2. Ask your current patients, and your staff, what you can do to improve the patient experience. You can utilize an anonymous employee survey, or you can ask each patient to complete a survey at the end of their visit. The information you get is useful, powerful feedback, as long as you make changes based on the input you receive.
  3. Implement customer service, communication, and conflict resolution skills as part of your ongoing staff training.
  4. Rather than using an impersonal sign-in sheet at the reception desk, train your reception staff to greet each patient warmly and personally by name.
  5. If the patient is new to the practice, or new to you, introduce yourself and describe your position in the practice.
  6. Show new patients around the office and introduce them to the staff.
  7. Ensure all staff wear name badges that are prominently placed and easy to read.
  8. Amenities such as a beverage bar, workstations, TV or free Wi-Fi can go a long way to make patients feel comfortable while they wait.
  9. During the ultrasound exam, ask your patients if there is anything that might make them feel more comfortable (i.e., blanket, headphones, water, magazine).
  10. Examine all of your communication processes, from the first phone greeting to the last “thanks and goodbye” at the end of the course of treatment. Script each key interaction (telephone etiquette, greetings, treatment plan & financial discussion, billing, collections, and other policies unique to your practice) in a polite, engaging way that reflects the spirit of your practice and the value of your patient relationships. Train your staff and role-play the scripts to make them your own.
  11. Respect your patient’s time. If you are running late, immediately tell the patient why and offer an estimate of how long the wait will be. Then follow the “10-Minute Rule” – updating the patient every 10 minutes. If the wait becomes excessive, offer to reschedule the appointment.
  12. Admit your mistakes and compensate patients for them. Compensation might consist of a complimentary product or service or discount from your practice, or a simple “Oops” card. If you make a mistake in scheduling or billing, or if you’ve run late, offer the patient a gift card to a local restaurant, coffee shop, bookstore, or movie theater to help smooth out the issue and maintain good will.
  13. If a patient misses an appointment, send a lighthearted email or text reminder with an invitation to call and reschedule. Humor, cartoons, or a captioned photo with a variation of, “Oh no! I forgot my appointment!” can often work wonders and help alleviate embarrassment.
  14. If a patient account should become delinquent, show compassion as the first step toward collection. Offer understanding and do what you can to help the patient create a payment plan that works for them.
  15. Keep your patients and team connected by creating a Social Media presence for your practice. Update it regularly with photos, testimonials, and announcements about new products, equipment, or services. Add staff profiles, anniversaries or birthdays, notes about office parties or celebrations, cartoons or jokes to help create a sense of relationship.
  16. Create contests, drawings, or raffles for your patients. Monthly, quarterly, or yearly contests can make patients feel as though they are part of a caring, special community.
  17. Consider holding a special “open house” occasionally: for any holiday, anniversary, significant birthday, or addition of a new partner or team member. Invite your patients, provide refreshments, and socialize a bit.

Remember: you’re not in the vein business; you’re in the people business. By going out of your way to make your patients feel special, you will not only enrich their lives, you and your staff might enjoy going to work every day, excited by the difference you’re making.

If your practice isn’t growing, if you aren’t getting many referrals or generating new patients, if you’re finding delinquencies and missed appointments increasing, it might be time to take a look at shifting your focus. Implementing just a few of these ideas can make a difference. Do what you can, one step at a time, every day.

David Schmiege is the President and CEO of Vein Specialists of America. Your ideas for future articles can be submitted to David via email at [email protected] or by phone at (630) 455-4528.

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