Keeping patients happy: Are you doing what it takes?

January 1, 2011

Let's look at the simple things urologists can do to ensure the entire staff focuses on being patient-centered and keeping patients happy.

Stay on their side. Partner with your patients from the onset. The partnership should be with the practice, not just the urologist. Lean on staff and make sure each person is giving the same message. Do they maintain a consistent attitude toward understanding patients' needs and wanting to resolve their concerns?

When patients are worried, or even if they're grouchy, they need you on their side. Everyone needs to be empathetic, compassionate, and reassuring so patients feel that you really care and that they made a good choice in coming to your practice.

Recognize patients' top concerns. Briefly, these concerns are related to fear, time, and money. Patients' fear is generally of the unknown, which ties directly to time and money. Here are just a few of those unknowns:

Each person in the practice can take strides to help alleviate these concerns. It is too easy to get caught up in the day and all the tasks that must be accomplished to get patients through the system. It is important to remember how vulnerable patients sometimes feel and how a little reassurance can go a long way. If each patient is treated as though she is your best friend, you can bet she will have a better experience.

Reinforce your patient service commitment. Your commitment to service starts with the new employee orientation. Include a discussion about the practice's commitment to patient satisfaction and what measures are taken to monitor performance in this area. Place comment cards (and a box for responses) in the reception room. This provides an opportunity for patients to submit accolades or criticism. Evaluate responses each quarter and address issues of concern if any emerge.

Establish patient service standards that are measurable, such as time parameters on responding to patient phone calls, giving test results, and limits for wait times in the office. Then monitor performance and respond when standards aren't being met.

Have an annual staff meeting dedicated to patient service and compare how you are doing to the prior year. It's also important to have refresher courses; schedule an occasional in-service on customer satisfaction. Discuss what patients want and expect, and how you can strive to provide the best experience for your patients.

Happy patients improve the bottom line. They are more cooperative and more committed to follow through on treatment recommendations, meaning less follow-up on your part and ultimately time savings and improved outcomes. Happy patients also keep their appointments. Considering that the typical cost of a single missed appointment is $180 in lost revenue and labor, the savings you could incur are significant.

Besides, happy patients are more fun to be around, reduce stress in the office, and make your practice a place where people want to work and excel. These are important benefits. Everybody wins when patients are happy.

Judy Capko is a health care consultant and the author of Take Back Time- Bringing Time Management to Medicine . She can be reached at 805-499-9203 or judy@capko.com