Does your facility reflect your practice's quality of care?

October 1, 2007

A patient's first impression of his doctor is formed, in large part, when he walks through the door of the practice.

It is easy to get so comfortable in our surroundings that we fail to notice when a facility begins to look tired and worn. Patients are quick to reach a conclusion that your clinical skills are also in need of updating. Here are a few important steps to ensure the practice represents the quality of care you offer.

Start by looking at the facility from the patient's perspective. Begin with the mindset that you are visiting someone's home and entering the living room for the first time. Think ambiance. Consider whether your facility offers the following:

Now look critically at the non-verbal cues patients get when they arrive. Do they have open access to the receptionist, with no sliding glass window that serves as a barrier, separating patients from staff? Such barriers make patients feel like intruders rather than welcome visitors.

Make sure the receptionist assigned to greet patients is not wearing a telephone headset. Patients can't tell whether the receptionist is on the phone or is available to assist them and answer their questions.

Next is the sign-in sheet. If you have one, get rid of it. It is just an excuse for staff not to greet patients on arrival and, quite frankly, most patients feel it is an invasion of their privacy. Mrs. Loyal does not want Mr. Crabby to know she was in to see the urologist earlier that day.

Even if your reception area passes muster, people will take notice of the rest of the facility. This includes the business office furnishings. Modern built-ins with lots of uncluttered counter space and attractive, sturdy chairs for staff make a positive statement that will not go unnoticed. However, you can bet patients will notice if your phone system is archaic and computer terminals are obviously old. After all, a new flat screen monitor says a lot about how you invest in the practice and the staff.

Give your clinical setting a critical look as well. Are exam rooms freshly painted, clean, and comfortable? Are there magazine racks and suitable hooks for hanging clothing? Is there adequate seating for the patient and his or her escort? Are the exam room tables nicely upholstered? Does the equipment show signs of aging to the untrained eye?