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Advanced patient communication skills - Part I: The new patient and the undecided patient

Advanced patient communication skills - Part I: The new patient and the undecided patient

In your practice, just as in life, you’ll see and experience an incredible amount of personalities – some easier to deal with than others. Part of running a successful practice is knowing how to work with every personality type you encounter.

Considering the importance of effective physician-patient communication, we will discuss several of the most common patient types in a multi-part series. Part one will focus on the new patient and the undecided patient, and best practices for navigating the three main stages of each patient experience.

The new patient

When it comes to the new patient, it is important to remember that this is their first interaction with your practice, and you never get a second chance to make a first impression. So, consider how you want your practice portrayed to that newcomer, and make sure their experience aligns with the brand you are looking to portray.

Before they come into the office, properly greet them by either their first name or the appropriate title (Ms./Mr./Miss/Mrs./Dr., etc.) when they call the office and/or connect with you online. If they introduce themselves to you by their first name, ask for permission to call them by their first name.

If by phone, collect the spelling of the caller’s first and last name, as well as their phone number and email address, and repeat it back to them. This not only allows you to keep in touch with them on multiple platforms throughout the patient journey, but also allows you to refer to the patient by name during your phone call.

When a new lead comes into the practice, reach out to them as soon as possible. Letting that lead sit in your inbox or voicemail will inevitably result in them moving along to another practice… one who wanted them as a patient enough to call them back before you did.

Once they are in the office, have your receptionist stand up to greet them as soon as they walk in the door. Treat that new patient like the king or queen they are!

Offer them a beverage while filling out intake paperwork. A hot cup of tea on a cool day or a cold bottle of water (branded with your logo) mid-summer  goes a long way to making a patient feel welcome.

Make sure your reception area is filled with branded marketing opportunities, from a video monitor showcasing a customized loop, to before-and-after photo books and brochures created specifically for your practice. All of these details are helping this new patient make their decision to be treated by you.

When that patient is ready to be taken into the exam room, elevate your brand by having a member of your team come out into the reception area, greet them, welcome them to the practice again and personally walk them back into the treatment room.

Once they are in the treatment room, make sure you have as much information about them as possible. Are they looking to have their nonsurgical treatment today? Is this their first surgical consult? Is there anyone else that is involved in the decision? If so, having them present for the consult is ideal.

After the consult, walk the patient to the door and thank them for sharing part of their day with your team. Make that patient feel special.

Remember, follow-up is key, so, be sure to keep in touch with them. Place your patient into a drip campaign where you continue to connect with them throughout their decision-making process – from call to consult, consult to treatment and treatment to retreatment.

The undecided patient

While this progression sounds easy enough, how do you work with a patient who is seemingly undecided about moving forward with their procedure? 
First, establish why they are undecided and then proceed.

Are they uninformed about the procedure itself? Often a patient has done their research on the internet prior to their initial introduction with you, and this means that they already have a lot of information about your practice. However, this is your chance to give them all of the correct information in pieces they are able to digest. Remember not to speak above their heads.

Do they have someone else involved in the decision-making process? We recommend that your patient care coordinator ask all new surgical consults if there is anyone else involved in the process, such as a parent or a spouse. Then, suggest that person come to the consult, too. It will be easier for them to make the decision together when they have both heard the same information.

Are they all over the place with what they want? Did they come in for a neurotoxin treatment and are now thinking about a tummy tuck? Be sure to narrow down the patient’s budget and primary concerns, along with their secondary concerns. We find that having that conversation up front is incredibly helpful, as is creating a wish list of everything they may want in the future. This includes skincare, injectables, laser treatments, surgical treatments, etc.

Are they unsure of what the procedure costs? Break this down for the patient after their medical consult and present them with a written quote. Presenting a third-party financing option to all patients will help them realize that they have options.

And finally, when a patient is truly undecided about how to move forward, remember to let them know that you understand this is a big decision, you are there for them and you are in this journey together.

About the Authors

Practice Management, best business practices, marketing, strategyMara Shorr, B.S., CAC 
Ms. Shorr serves as a partner, as well as the vice president of marketing and business development for Shorr Solutions, assisting medical practices with the operational, financial and administrative health of their business. She is a Certified Aesthetic Consultant and program advisor, utilizing her knowledge and experience to help clients achieve their full potential. A national speaker and writer, she can be contacted at marashorr@shorrsolutions.com.

Practice Management, best business practices, marketing, strategyJay A. Shorr B.A., M.B.M.-C., CAC
Mr. Shorr is the founder and managing partner of Shorr Solutions. He is also a professional motivational speaker, an advisor to the Certified Aesthetic Consultant program and a certified medical business manager from Florida Atlantic University. He can be reached at jayshorr@shorrsolutions.com.

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