4 Customer Service Tips for Doctors

1. Show Patients That You Actually Care

Of course, you care. You wouldn’t be a doctor if you didn’t care, right? It’s not always clear to patients that doctors actually care. Remember that most patients don’t want to be in your office. They are often feeling bad or scared or both, so they are in a particularly vulnerable situation. Listen, empathize, and treat patients the way you would want to be treated.

2. Give Patients a Say in their Treatment

Lay out the options. Tell them what you would do if it was your loved one.  And, then ask how they want to proceed. If they choose a course that you don’t agree with, have a conversation about why you think it’s a bad idea and document it. Ultimately though, be their advocate and supporter, not a dictator. 

3. Educate Yourself on Non-traditional Treatments and Keep a Straight Face

Your patients are taking over the counter supplements, using essential oils, and Googling for treatments…. whether you want them to or not. If you give them the stink eye about these things, they will just lie to you. Would you rather know what your patient was taking or not?? 

Choose to educate yourself on the non-traditional treatments so you can speak openly with your patients about them. It’s okay to say that you aren’t a fan of them and that there is a huge lack of research on the efficacy and dangers. It’s okay to say that we don’t know the long-term effects of these things. It’s okay to say that taking them in lieu of real medicine can be dangerous. 

They key is to have an open, informed conversation. 

4. Read the Paperwork You Have Patients Fill Out

It’s not okay to have patients fill out 10 minutes of paperwork and not look at it. It is okay to read it in front of the patient. You are human.  You aren’t expected to know everything about every patient. Want the patient to feel like you spent more time with them? Scan their paperwork in front of them. Walk in, greet them, and say “Give me just a minute to read through your paperwork” or “Give me a second to refresh my memory on your medical history/prescriptions.” 

About the Author

Amanda Brummitt has extensive healthcare customer service experience in hospitals, medical practices, and as a consultant. She’s a customer service snob that thinks asking people to be nice isn’t asking too much. She believes that the vast majority of doctors are good people that care about their patients and that sometimes they just need a little help conveying that. 

5 Customer Service Tips for Medical Assistants

1. Rooming Patients

When you grab a patient from the lobby, it’s the first opportunity to make a friendly impression. Please don’t stand at the door and say “Smith.” At a minimum, say “Ms./Mr. Smith” and look around the lobby to make eye contact with the patient as they come to the door. If there is only one patient in the lobby, walk up to them and ask if they are Ms./Mr. Smith. If they are a returning patient, say “Welcome back” when they make it to the door. Ask how they are. 

2. Tell Patients What to Expect

Let them know what you are about to do. For example, say “We are going to get your height and weight. Then, I’ll take you to the exam room to get your vitals and learn about what we can do to help you today.”

3. The Scale

Be sensitive to the fact that most patients aren’t ecstatic about hopping on the scale. Use discretion when saying the weight. If they are there for weight loss and have lost weight, praise them for it. 

When you weigh patients, have somewhere they can place their belongings or offer to hold them. It’s gross to set your purse on the floor of a doctor’s office. 

4. The Interview

Explain that you are going to ask a bunch of questions to help get the most accurate picture of their health. Go ahead and address that the provider may repeat some of the questions to get further clarity. Listen to the patient. Make eye contact. Don’t just look at the screen. Face your screen towards the patient so your face is towards them the whole time. 

If they are a new patient, this is a great time to talk up the provider. Let them know that the doctor/physician assistant/nurse practitioner is very knowledgable and will take great care of them. 

5. The Exit

Recap any instructions from the doctor with patients and walk them to the spot to check out. Let them know what to do if they have questions once they get home (portal, call, email, etc.). Wish them a happy day or hope for feeling better. 

About the Author

Amanda Brummitt has extensive healthcare customer service experience from hospitals, medical practices, and as a consultant. She’s a customer service snob that thinks asking people to be nice isn’t asking too much. She believes the support staff is just as important as the doctor in making sure patients have a positive experience. 

5 Front Office Customer Service Tips to Implement in Your Practice This Week

1. Signs

Walk into your lobby like a patient.  See it from their view. 

Do you have any signs that sound mean? 
Do you have any signs that sound rude? 
Do you have a sign that says, “Don’t tap on the window,” “Payment expected at time of service,” or “If you are more than X minutes late….”? 
Do you have more than two signs in your lobby?  

If you answered yes to any of these questions, take those signs down.  Have you ever seen a sign at a MedSpa that says payment is expected up front?  Nope.  Let’s treat your patients at least as good as a MedSpa.  Your office should be a safe place for patients; not one where they feel unwelcome.  Signage should be friendly and welcoming or not exist at all.  Promote new services, new providers, social media, or survey tools in your signage…not policies.  Patients are customers.  Treat them that way.  Don’t treat your patients like an inconvenience before they even get the opportunity to talk to your staff. 

2. Eye Contact, Smile, Greet

When a customer walks in the front door, the front desk person should make eye contact and smile.  When the customer gets about three feet from the front desk, they should greet them warmly.  “Hello, how are you?” is a great start.  If they are on the phone, they can still smile and mouth “I’ll be right with you” or make a hand gesture to indicate it.  Essentially, make sure the customer knows they’ve been seen and acknowledged. 

3. The Window

Oh, how I loathe the window.  If your practice is in a dangerous area and you see patients at night, okay, you can have a window.  And, thank you for loving humanity enough to practice somewhere that needs healthcare so desperately. 

Outside of actual dangerous situations, what is the deal with the window?  Are we hiding from patients or what?  And please don’t say it’s because of HIPAA.  You can absolutely be HIPAA compliant without being closed off to the lobby. 

I prefer no window.  If you have a window, keep it open all the time.  If the window is frosted, shame on you.  If it’s an overlay remove it.  If it’s built into the glass, keep it open all the time. 

Don’t build barriers between you and your patients.  Remove them.  And start with that window. 

4. Name Tags

Did you know it is a patient’s right to know the name of the person caring for them and what their credentials are?  Every member of your team should wear a name tag every single day, including doctors and administrators. 

Also, people behave better when they know someone knows their name…because patients can tell on them.  Using names also starts to build familiarity. 

If 100% of your office isn’t wearing name tags now, order them today.  High turnover? Fine.  Use a label maker for the name/credentials on blank name tags with your logo.  If you need help finding a vendor for name tags, we’re happy to share who we use.

5. Addressing Patients

When checking in a patient, script your staff’s language.  My preferred language is, “Hi, how are you? (Pause for answer.) What’s your name?”  Say hi before asking for name.  And, it’s “your” name, not “the” name.  I hate it when someone says, “What’s the name?”  Seems so impersonal to me. 

Want to step it up a notch?  Try to remember patient names.  Include a pic (even if is the driver’s license picture) in a patient’s medical record.  When it’s a repeat patient, look at the schedule and see if you can figure out their name.  How much better is it when staff can say, “Hi Mrs. Smith.  Welcome back.  I’ve got you checked in.”  Bam.  Service.  Or, even say, “Hi! Welcome back.  Can you remind me what your name is?”  Acknowledging that the person is recognized is HUGE!!

About the Author

Amanda Brummitt has worked in healthcare since 2001 in administration of both hospitals and medical practices.  She’s a customer service snob that thinks asking people to be nice isn’t asking too much.  She loves secret shopping physician practices, customer service training for clinical and non-clinical staff, and using customer service to improve the patient experience. 

Surprising and Delighting Your Patients with Excellent Customer Service

Always smile, say please and thank you, and you will have a patient forever, Right!  That could very well be the case, given you, your staff and the patient, view all matters and/or situations exactly the same.  What happens when there is a misunderstanding?

The Patient/Client/Customer is the Foundation of every practice,” as quoted to us in an excellent customer service workshop facilitated by SCORE at the Greater Irving Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce on September 1.

Customer Service can often times be compromised when we all get caught up in the day-to-day hustle of “getting the job done.”

  • Is a smile necessary?
  • Does the tone in your voice or your body language convey attitude?
  • Positive, upbeat, affirmations over the telephone and in the work place; does it work?

Yes, all of those practices work to ensure a successful experience.

“All the business savvy in the world won’t make you successful–your customers do that! Without new and repeated customers, there is no practice.

A smile, the tone of your voice, your body language and positive affirmations, all make a huge difference in the way a message or service is provided.  The workshop revealed there are six basic needs of customers:

  • They need to feel welcome … greet them;
  • They need to be understood … show understanding;
  • They need comfort … make them feel comfortable;
  • They need to feel important … make them feel important;
  • They need to feel in control … give them control; and
  • Understated needs … listen and find out what their needs are.

Greet them:  Always have someone at the front of your practice to greet patients, vendors and any other visitors.

Show understanding:  When a patient comes in and is confused or might have misunderstood something, please don’t get on the defense, really listen to what they are saying, paraphrase it back to them, so they know you understand them and that you are working to get it resolved.

Make them feel comfortable:  Please don’t rush your patients off of the telephone, out of the examining room or the waiting room.

Make them feel important:  Call your patients by their name.  Don’t rush them.  Set a goal to have telephones answered on the first ring, and certainly by the second during business hours. 

Give them control:  Whatever you do, don’t argue.  Work to resolve the matter.  Ask them what they would like for you to do and then proceed with doing it.

Listen and find out what their needs are:  Give them your undivided attention.  Don’t look at your computer screen or the paper’s on your desk.  Turn away from those things and make eye contact with them.  Please don’t zone out and start thinking of your next response.  Let them finish.

Customers complain for a variety of reasons, the most common is poor service, feeling ignored and constantly being made to wait to be served.

Most disgruntled patients can be won over again, with the proper follow-up technique and showing them that you will work to take care of a matter.

  • Again, ask the patient what they would like for you to do about a matter. If it can’t be resolve in that instant, be sure and let them know you will follow-up and call them the next day with the plan to resolve the issue.  Give specific times to make contact, and do what you say you are going to do.  But whatever you do, do not promise what you cannot deliver.

Commit to provide training for employees, so that they are comfortable performing at a high level and are better able to provide excellent customer service.  Provide and display your Vision and Mission Statement so that staff understand the goal of your practice.  You and your staff, can certainly surprise and delight your patients with excellent customer service by being positive and using phrases like: It is my pleasure to serve you; Please; What would make you happy, I would be happy to ….  By all means; lead by example.