10 Standards of Behavior Essential for Every Healthcare Organization [Part 4]

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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

8. Proactively Demonstrate Courtesy and Respect

Do you know what the #1 complaint is that patients have about their office visit? It’s the poor customer service the patient receives from the front-office staff. I wish that was not the case, but the facts speak for themselves. I’ll get to that in a minute.

I remember when I first started consulting with physician practices back in 1994. I was amazed that multi-million-dollar enterprises, known as physician practices, were literally in the hands of the receptionist or front-desk personnel.

My amazement was not that the receptionist, appointment schedulers, and other front-line personnel were not good people, my amazement was the lack of training they received and how they were perceived within the organization.

Your front-line personnel are extremely important to the success of your physician’s practice.

How’s Your Training?

The level and frequency of training the average front-desk receptionist received back in 1995 was close to nonexistent. The lack of training today in 2020 — 25 years later – does not seem to be a lot better!

If your role at your physician’s practice is receptionist, appointment scheduler, check-in, check-out, or you serve in some other front-line position where you engage patients routinely, what is your perspective? I’d love to hear your comments.

Most of all, I’d love to hear that things have much improved. Unfortunately, based on a study published in the Journal of Medical Practice Management, (1) the study found 96 percent of patient complaints are related to customer service, and not a providers’ clinical skills or quality of care. Granted, the study was published in 2016, but 2016 was not that long ago and it’s still at 96%.

Another chief complaint, found during the study, was tied to poor interpersonal skills from front-office staff. Interpersonal skills can be taught, learned, and practiced – it just takes a commitment from the organization to make it happen.

The Bottom-line

The bottom-line? Office staff can make or break a practice.

Even when the provider is doing all the right things, if office staff are rude or disrespectful, patient satisfaction decreases and soon you’re reading the patient’s description of their subpar patient experience on Google, HealthGrades, or some other social media outlet.

Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast

Considered a management guru, Peter Drucker inspired the book, “Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast”, by Kathie Sorensen.

Working toward creating a culture of courtesy and respect can be an uphill battle.

Here are a few strategies that may be considered:

Courtesy and Respect: Where is Starts

Setting the example and building a foundation of courtesy and respect begins with leadership and physicians.

Treating people with courtesy and respect should occur not only with patients, but throughout the entire organization, from the CEO down to the practice manager. Courtesy and respect must be demonstrated between employees, providers, patients, referring offices, indeed at all levels of the organization.


Hiring and retaining the best is not an easy feat. It is also a very common frustration for medical practices seeking skilled staff.

Some TIPs to consider: Utilize the local chapter of MGMA or the county medical society by posting openings on their websites or in their newsletter. Consider contacting medical assistant programs and trade schools, or participate in extern programs to find someone exceptional through a trial basis.

Medical practices are fast-paced work environments, so it is imperative to get it right from the start by finding personalities that can work well together and keep the office running efficiently.


We touched on training already, even so, it’s so important it’s worth mentioning again. Proper customer service training is essential and should be considered an investment in employees and the practice. There are several different healthcare customer service training methodologies, here are two:

1) Endeavor for Excellence: Start Where the Patient Starts

Endeavor for Excellence (E4E) is MedicalGPS’ service improvement program designed especially for physician practices, delivered via a series of live, on-line webinars, sequenced over six-week time frame. MedicalGPS’ senior executives lead groups of up to 25 practices, concurrently, through a hands-on interactive program that enables practice managers and other local leadership to effect positive change within their respective practice(s).

2) AIDET®-an acronym that stands for Acknowledge, Introduce, Duration, Explanation and Thank You (2)

A – Acknowledge the patient and family member.
I – Introduce yourself by name and role to the patient and family member.
D – Duration of care or experience within the field of care being provided.
E – Explain the care/procedure/diagnosis to the patient and family.
T – Thank the patient and family for entrusting you for their care.


Remember, while it takes many consistent positive interactions to create a great patient experience that demonstrates and delivers high levels of courtesy and respect, it takes only one bad interaction to create a bad experience.

This may not seem fair, but it’s true. You don’t want that to happen to a patient, and you definitely don’t want to be the person who causes that to happen.
Courtesy and respect are essential to success. Being intentional and consistent in how we demonstrate courtesy and respect to our patients is the key.

Please let us know if you have comments or questions, and subscribe to our Email Updates, so that you can be assured to receive Thinking Thursdays TIPs.

Thank you!


(1) Patients’ No. 1 complaint? Front-desk staff
Kelly Gooch – Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

By Richard Rubin, MD, MBA, CPHQ

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