Managing Patient Expectations

How to strengthen your practice by creating a happier clientele.

It’s part of working with patients: While most may be grateful for your services, some people expect miracles and may come away disappointed. No matter how much skill and experience you bring to your profession, you can’t do much about unrealistic expectations. What you can do, however, is consistently strive to create a positive experience for your patients. When you and your staff treat patients with respect, consideration and a friendly attitude, you build patient loyalty and overall goodwill for your practice.

Communicate (without overpromising)
If you’ve traveled by airplane, you know the irritation of sitting endlessly on the tarmac with no word from the pilot. Patients may be more forgiving of a long wait in your office or a delay in getting test results if your staff accurately updates them on their wait time. It goes without saying that you must communicate clearly and not overpromise on clinical matters; make a point of spreading that philosophy throughout your office.

Take time to listen
Once you’ve gotten the clinical information you need, there’s every incentive to treat, prescribe and move on to the next case. But keep in mind that for patients, having the opportunity to speak with an expert and describe their condition in their own terms is an essential part of getting the reassurance they expect from a visit to your practice.

Of course, fielding questions has become more of a challenge in the age of the Internet, since patients often arrive in your office armed with information, partial information and misinformation they’ve gleaned online. Posting accurate educational material and frequently asked questions on your website may help.[1] Still, there’s no substitute for face-to-face reassurance. Taking time to hear patients’ concerns and answer their questions, even when they seem redundant or obvious, can go a long way toward establishing the trust that is the basis of any lasting relationship.

Insist on politeness
Your administrative and clinical staff members are the face of your practice. If they are less than hospitable, patients will assume you have set that tone. Insist on politeness in every area of your operation, no matter how efficient an employee may be at his or her job.   

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