Recently, I attended a local presentation for professionals in the medical industry. A topic that was discussed included the concern over the upcoming changes, and how it will affect business. It was mentioned that it may be a growing trend to have products available for purchase directly at the doctor’s office. The reality of losing mass amounts of patients has many medical professionals scrambling to come up with different avenues to generate revenue. However, there is a simple solution to consider before adding a new product line to the office: customer service. Creating a customer service policy isn’t enough; you have to have the right staff in place to implement it.
Gone are the days when patients accept that they will have a long wait before they see the doctor. They are no longer understanding of a nurse’s less than cheerful disposition (even if it’s because the nurse is working through lunch, again). Today’s patients expect customer service, even when they are being seen by medical professionals. Not having the right team in place, or being understaffed can have damaging effects on patients remaining loyal to your practice.
Many dental offices have adopted a customer service approach to caring for their patients as a way to keep them coming back in for treatment. It is not a secret that most patients don’t look forward to going to the dentist. Understanding that oral health is vital to a patients overall health, conscious actions need to be taken to keep new and existing patients coming into the office for treatment. Dentist and their staff tend to cater to patient’s needs and spend time developing trust. They rely heavily on keeping patients positive by ensuring that the patient comes first. That typically starts with limiting the amount of time patients wait to be seen. As a former dental assistant, I have heard first hand from nearly every new patient that there was a drastic difference between waiting at the doctor’s office, and waiting at the dental office. Of course, this is not to say that dental offices do not have flaws, and there are not medical offices that have put similar measures in place. Rather, it is intended to highlight that the customer focus approach is a tool that can be easily transferred to a medical office. In any situation unexpected events occur; someone calls out sick, there is an emergency, a procedure did not go as planned, but it’s the overall consistency of the practice that patients will notice.
What we need to keep in the forefront of our minds is, when a patient has a bad experience, they will tell others. This used to be a concern that did not have an immediate effect; it took some time to develop a poor reputation. Now, in addition to telling their friends, relatives, neighbors, and coworkers, that disgruntled patient can post a review of a doctor, the staff, the office condition, and so forth on line. The first thing most people do before making a decision on a service or product is to read the reviews on line. That bad review can be seen by potential patients. We know that this is a trend that will not disappear. It is becoming increasingly utilized when deciding where to go for medical treatment. There are apps and web pages specifically dedicated to rate, and review healthcare providers, and facilities. This allows users to give also leave detailed comments regarding their experience. Reputation from patients and in the community is a leading factor when a choosing where to go for medical treatment. The most effective way to avoid overwhelming negative reviews is to have staff on board that shares a common passion for quality and efficient patient care. The effort placed on patient care will radiate throughout the practice, and that word also spreads quickly.
Proving excellent patient care isn’t the only goal that medical professionals need to reach. Practices need to be profitable to continue to operate. Before considering any alternative, invest in your staff, and that is guaranteed to generate revenue.
Creating the right team, which includes having a sufficient number of team members, is crucial to the success of the practice. Not having one or both can significantly affect your bottom line and it doesn’t take long to feel the effects. The idea of implementing customer service by hiring the best team possible may not be the first thought that comes to mind. It may seem overwhelming to add in customer service on top of every other day-to-day task it takes to run a busy practice. However, medicine is a business, and if there are no customers, eventually there may not be a practice.
In addition to the detrimental effects staffing issues can have on business, this also causes major internal issues. Insufficient staffing raises the stress level of all existing team members. Being in the recruiting industry, it is necessary to ask every candidate what is the motivating factor for looking for a new position. The most common answer we hear for job dissatisfaction is emotional exhaustion as a result of not having enough staff to care for patients. Ensuring that your practice has adequate staff reduces the likelihood of employee burnout and will improve the quality of care that your patients receive.
The process of hiring, training and firing employees is costly. It is imperative that candidate selection is handled appropriately the first time, and significant efforts are made toward employee retention. It is not likely that the perfect addition to your team will come knocking on your door, or will happen to come across your job posting. A proactive approach to seeking out the most qualified candidates results in greater long term satisfaction in your employees.
With the uncertainty and changes medical professionals are facing, there must be a plan to avoid what can be avoided. Patients aren’t faced with limited access to medical care, they have options. People buy from people they like and trust. Medical care doesn’t have to be any different. Patient satisfaction and quality care will build a stronger, profitable practice, and both start with a qualified staff. Not providing that combination to your patients can be a detriment to future success.
Rachel Smith, owner of trueFIT Healthcare LLC, is an executive healthcare recruiter. She specializes in the permanent placement of healthcare professionals. Her business was founded on the commitment to differentiate her service from standard recruiting agencies. Her reputation is built on the emphasis that is placed on client needs and her relentless drive for success. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.