Part 1 – Receptionist Helpful: 10 TIPs Your Patients Will Appreciate

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From time to time MedicalGPS offers training for our clients through our service improvement program, Endeavor for Excellence – Start Where the Patient Starts.  We are about to kick-off a new session and we thought you would be interested in taking a look at some of the TIPs we’ll be teaching, as it relates to making a good first impression and building strong relationships with your patients, starting with your receptionist.

As part of their M3-Patient Experience® questionnaire, many of our clients use the following two questions to gauge patient’s perception of their receptionists’ helpfulness and courtesy.

Receptionist Helpful question: In the last 6 months, how often are the clerks and receptionists at this provider’s office as helpful as you thought they should be?

   ☐ Always

   ☐ Usually

   ☐ Sometimes

   ☐ Never

Across the MedicalGPS database comprised of 664,337 patient responses over the last 12 months, patients answered “Always” 85% of the time to the Receptionist Helpful question.

Receptionist Courteous question: In the last 6 months, how often do the clerks and receptionists at this provider’s office treat you with courtesy and respect? 

   ☐ Always

   ☐ Usually

   ☐ Sometimes

   ☐ Never

The percentage of patients answering “Always” to the Receptionist Courteous question was 90% for the same 12-month period.  As you might imagine, the correlation between the Receptionist Helpful question and the Receptionist Courteous has a strong-positive correlation coefficient, which hovers around .73.  Making a good first impression plays a huge role in getting the patient experience off to a great start.

“You’ll never get a second chance to make a great first impression”.  How true!  The quote has been credited to both Oscar Wilde and to Will Rogers.  Experts say it takes about seven (7) seconds for us to form an initial, first impression.

So, what kind of first impressions are made when patients arrive to your practice?

Below are the first five (5) of ten (10) service improvement training TIPs.  Coming in the next issue of Thinking Thursday’s TIPs, you’ll find TIPs 6 – 10.

You are welcome to share the TIPs with your front-line staff, allowing them to make their first impressions as good as they can be, and hopefully, long lasting favorable impressions for your patients.

TIPs 1 – 5 for Front-line Support Staff

1)    Eye Contact – To create an environment of courtesy and respect, it is essential to make eye contact with the patient. When you look a person in the eye, you communicate confidence and belief in your message. By looking someone in the eye, they are more likely to listen to you. Failing to make eye contact makes you look less believable, less confident, and reduces the likelihood the patient is listening.  It is important to remain focused on the patient, and not distracted by computers, phones, personal devices or other employees.

2)    Personal Details Matter – Whether it is your favorite restaurant, retail store, or doctor’s office, when someone remembers specific details about you, it makes you feel special.  It could be a simple question about your family, or a pet, even a hobby — personal details matter.  A couple of key points:

  • Always address patients by their preferred name.
  • Make a point to find out about your patients beyond their medical history.
  • Ask patients about their jobs, children, travel and hobbies.

Throughout the conversation listen for, and use, small personal details that make the patient feel special.

3)    Use Patient’s Preferred Name – “A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” – Dale Carnegie.   Using a patient’s name is one of the most effective ways to make a positive impression.  Using the patient’s preferred name is also a sign of courtesy and respect. Always ask the patient what their preferred name or nickname is and use it.  Attempt to use the patient’s preferred name more than once during your conversation AND offer your name as part of the exchange.

4)    Active Listening is Key – Active listening is a way of listening and responding to an individual that improves mutual understanding. Typically, when individuals speak to one another they are not always listening attentively. Often, we get distracted — we’re half-listening, or thinking about something else. Listening effectively is something that very few people do consistently. By listening more efficiently you will get more, and better, information from patients, which will increase their trust in you, and help reduce potential misunderstandings. Always use non-verbal cues that show you’re understanding the patient, which include; making eye contact, smiling, offering an affirmative nod, showing concern, and asking open-ended questions.  Use brief verbal affirmations like; “I see,” “I know,” “Thank you,” or “I understand.”

5)    Avoid Medical Jargon – Words do matter. Medical jargon can often lead to poor communication and reduced understanding for many patients. Speak slowly and eliminate, or at least minimize, the use of medical jargon. Keep explanations simple; use descriptions that that a non-medical person would understand.

We hope you’ve enjoyed Part 1 of our blog series: Receptionist Helpful: 10 TIPs Your Patients Will Appreciate. Be sure to subscribe to our Email Updates on the right side 👉 of this page, and keep en eye out next week for Part 2.

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