We’re in the process of reviewing 10 Standards of Behavior. This week we’re digging into #8, Proactively Demonstrate Courtesy and Respect.
We are taking highlights from MedicalGPS’ service improvement program, Endeavor for Excellence: Start Where the Patient Starts. We believe these 10 Standards of Behavior and customer service techniques are essential ingredients to your organization’s success.
- Importance of Eye Contact
- Patient’s Preferred Name
- Patient’s Personal Details
- Body Language
- Open-ended Questions
- Active Listening Techniques
- Avoid Use of Medical Jargon
- Proactively Demonstrate Courtesy and Respect
- Waiting Room Rounding
- Telephone Etiquette
9. Waiting Room Rounding
One could argue that the most important patient encounter happens the minute the patient walks through the front door, right there at the check-in desk. The first person most patients encounter is the receptionist.
If you have been following Thinking Thursdays TIPs for any time at all you know how much we stress the importance of making a great first impression. A key aspect of that first patient encounter is to politely AND accurately set the patient’s expectation regarding wait time.
Let’s Be Real
In today’s healthcare world nearly every office visit involves some amount of waiting. The patients’ perception of quality, both service quality and the quality of care, decreases proportionately to the length of the patient’s wait time (1)
Even if the patient receives exemplary care, the frustration of having to wait will impact the patient’s perception of the entire visit experience, not just the time in the lobby or waiting area (2).
An effective technique to relieve the patient’s frustration and anxiety is to keep them informed about their wait.
Setting Expectations is Everything
Setting the patient’s expectations starts right when the patient checks in. If the wait is going to be under 15 minutes, for most of us, having to wait 15 minutes or less at our physician’s office is GREAT news! If you are the receptionist, after a warm and friendly greeting, this is your opportunity to not only make the patient feel welcomed and important, YOU also have the privilege of sharing the good news that the patient will be seen right away. Say something like, “Today has been a great day — everything is running right on time — I expect [use the MA’s or nurses name if you know it] should call you back within the next 10 to 15 minutes.”
If on the other hand the wait is going to exceed 15 minutes, let the patient know that as well. If there is a specific reason for the longer wait time, offering a factual comment without sounding like you’re making excuses can be effective.
Let’s say a patient earlier in the day came in for a routine follow-up visit but that patient’s medical condition was much worse than the physician had anticipated, and the doctor had to spend an extra 30 minutes with the patient. In that instance, when wait times are longer than desired, try informing the patient at the check in desk by saying something like the following; “We had a patient that had a particularly complex medical condition, beyond what we expected, which has caused our wait time to be longer than we’d like. I expect the wait time may be 45 minutes or so. Please accept my apologies! If there is anything I can do to make you more comfortable while you wait, just let me know.”
Many physician practices offer bottled water or other beverages and refreshments. If that is the case with your practice, offer the patient a refreshment and direct the patient to where the refreshments are kept.
There are two good reasons to implement a Waiting Room Rounding program for your practice.
First, it will improve the patient’s experience during the time they are waiting in the lobby and secondly, and more importantly, the patient’s experience while waiting sets the stage for the entire office experience.
Having a designated staff member (or multiple team members as needed) assigned to perform waiting room rounding is the first step. Each patient’s wait time should be monitored. As the patient’s wait approaches 15 minutes, a staff member from the front desk or from the back office should walk out to the lobby and approach the patient in a discrete, warm and friendly manner.
If you are the designated person making the waiting room rounds, as patients are seated in the waiting area, approach them at a moderate pace (don’t walk fast or appear hurried). Look at the patient as you approach them. As soon as the patient looks up and makes eye contact with you, offer them a friendly smile and gracefully kneel beside the patient, so that you are on their level.
Speak with a soft, low volume and introduce yourself, offer an apology about the longer than normal wait times and let the patient know how much longer they will have to wait.
As much as is possible, provide an accurate estimate of how much longer it will be before they are called-back to the exam or procedure room.
Keep it Simple
Maintaining a daily log of waiting room rounding activity will allow your team to stay focused and deliver consistent, high levels of customer service. One good technique is to make a hard copy of the appointment schedule and then simply make a notation next to each patient’s name as each are rounded.
The notation should include the name of the person that performed the waiting room rounding and a notation of the time-of-day that each patient was informed about the extended wait.
Sometimes patients will require more than one update during their wait. As you review the waiting room rounding log, should you see multiple notations next to a patient’s name consider those as ‘red flags’, indicating that the patient may need some extra TLC.
Waiting room rounding, implemented in a compassionate professional manner, can be the foundation for creating a culture of service excellence that makes every patient feel welcomed, important, and well cared for.
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