10 Tips to effectively connecting with your patients before you even see them.
Ever feel like you see a patient, and before you know it, you’ve barely talked about what they came in to see you for, and you have 10 other patients in your reception area waiting? There is never enough time to truly connect with every patient as you’d like, but you can give them extremely educational information and show them you care before they even step foot into a room. Follow these 10 steps to effectively connect with your patients before you even see them.
- Skip the magazine subscriptions and opt for a more educational approach. You don’t have to get rid of all of the magazines, but definitely toss out any that are over one year old, are tattered and ripped, or host inappropriate content. Instead of magazines, try and find health related content, coffee table books, and children’s books that are filled with educational, nutritional, or inspirational content. Let your waiting room be a place that reflects your values, practice initiatives, and inspiration that your patients can learn a little bit more about you as a person as well as a physician. Interested in drag racing? Throw a few books about your hobbies in there too. It makes your patients feel more comfortable while offering them something other than trashy gossip magazines to pass the time. Also, books are better kept and look more professional.
- Keep all areas of the office clean, tidy, and well organized. Of course your rooms are overly sanitized and clean, but those same standards should be held at your sign in desk, patient lavatories, and the waiting areas. Have front office staff check hourly for empty cups, dirty tissues, ripped papers, or any other trash or clutter that can accumulate throughout the day. There’s nothing worse than going to sit in a chair and see it has garbage left in it, especially when you expect a physician’s office to be sanitized and clean. Make a great and lasting first impression by keeping these areas, at all times, clean, fresh smelling, and comfortable for your patients and your staff.
- Have fun with decorating and furniture in your waiting area. Gone are the days that you have to have uncomfortable airport style seating and order from a furniture catalog with minimal options and high prices. The internet has so many options for furniture, décor and technology that can be utilized in physician’s offices. The first step to taking a modern approach within your office is opening your mind. Take notes when you go to your hair salon or a restaurant. What do they have to engage customers, to share their message, or to make you feel a certain mood? Are you more relaxed and comfortable because they have modern seating? Do they offer complimentary coffee or water while you are waiting? Take those approaches and apply them to your own waiting room. These don’t have to be expensive mortifications either. A few great tables, lounge seating, and even a coffee bar can be extremely budget friendly. The time and effort will be well worth it for your patients, and your practice as a whole. Showing them you care about their environment is just another effective way to care for them before they get to a room.
- Ensure your patients are able to connect to their devices while in your waiting room. There are studies backing this one up, and you should definitely take note. Patients, on average, wait at least 20 minutes before seeing their physician. These days more than ever, people are using their devices to find information and educate themselves. A recent study by CDMiConnect surveyed 3,000 patients having over 200 various health conditions and found that one in five patients spend their waiting room time researching for health information on their smart devices. Patients are educating themselves on symptoms and diagnoses to prepare themselves for communicating how they feel to their doctor. If your office doesn’t have wifi, they may be less likely to be able to do so. Also, charging stations are a great way to invite your patients to relax in your waiting area, charge their device, and connect. This not only allows them to use their device comfortably, but also is a great way to make them feel more relaxed especially if they are nervous or tense about their visit.
- Help connect with your patients by letting them communicate their goals for this visit. While your patients are waiting, have the front office staff offer them a goal setting sheet on a clip board for them to fill out. This doesn’t have to be complicated or lengthy, just something that patients can write their intentions for the visit, any new conditions since the last time they have seen you, or anything they want to share (maybe they are pregnant, want to learn more about a new procedure, or need a flu shot). They can be collected before you see them so you can read over it before or during their visit to make sure they are getting the most out of their visit, and you are offering the best healing possible.
- Offer important reading materials to your patient before they even get to the office. Start collecting email addresses from your patients if they have one (you’d be surprised how many have them these days) and use it as a patient engagement tool before they get to your office. If you are an OB/GYN and your patient is unsure of which IUD device they want, send them a few pamphlets or articles you think offer some great information to help them decide. This not only shows your patient you care, but it also is putting the right information in their hands. The internet offers so much irreverent and incorrect information regarding medical treatments, and physicians more than ever have to be ahead of the curve of trendy procedures and studies. If you want your patients to know something, share it with them!
- Sharing on Social Media is another way to educate your patients. Facebook is not hard to update if you have something you want to share with your patients. Articles on health, fitness, food, travel, medicine, and therapy are so popular and really easy to find. Keep your practices’ Facebook page current and upload articles once a week that you think your patients may enjoy. Even a reminder to get their flu shot, or a great all natural sun screen you love are easy ways to connect and be engaged with your patients. Often times, front office staff is able to post and keep this current, but be sure you are getting your own voice and opinion in there as well. When researching for a new doctor, people are searching Facebook to see pictures of the staff, the waiting area, and to see their hours of operation. Make sure these are all up to date and accurate, as well as your contact information and address.
- Stay clear of the candy bowl and junk food in vending machines and offer a healthier option instead. It’s always a little contradictory when you are telling a patient they need to stop eating sugar, and as they walk out your front office staff offers them a piece of candy. Candy is cheap and sometimes great for kids, but there are so many other more unique and health options out there for you to be sharing with your patients. Be creative and share something you feel good about, such as apples or bananas, mini bottles of water, herbal tea packets, emergen-C packets, or toothbrushes. These can be themed towards your own practice, a season or holiday, or just to promote health in general.
- Show your connection to the community by posting a Community Connection board. A bulletin board is a great way for patients to connect with one another and the community. Post a few flyers for concerts, events, farmers markets, mommy and me classes, races, anything that promotes togetherness and health. Just be sure to filter this regularly and throw out anything that shouldn’t be on there or that is expired.
- Use your TV for something other than shows. There are tons of options to connect and entertain your patients that are not television shows or movies that you can play on your screen. Play a live feed of the zoo if you are a pediatrician, play Zen music through the speakers to promote, medical network programs, or just a slideshow of information like flu shot reminders. This can be another great tool to engage your patients without a lot of effort.
We hope this list gives you some great ideas and inspiration about effectively engaging your patients before they even step foot into your exam room. Let your waiting room be a place of community, comfort, and most importantly, healing.