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"You have turned my life around"
 

I am 87 years old, with a problem of the prostate gland. Before I met Dr. Baum, I went to the bathroom every 30-60 minutes. After Dr. Baum's treatment on my prostate, I go only 5 times per day and only 1 time at night! You turned my life around. I am so very grateful!

-Sidney Daigle


I want to thank you for your due diligence. You saved my life. I highly recommend you!

-Dwight Bastian


Thank you Dr. Baum! Because of you I'm back in the "rodeo"!

-Gerald Wallace

 


So many times physicians think of marketing as Yellow Page ads, flashy brochures, or radio and T.V. commercials. Of course, that is one component of marketing, but the easiest way to market your practice is to provide stellar service to the patients already in your practice. Here are five suggestions to enhance the relationship with your existing patients so that they may have a positive experience with you and your practice. By using these five techniques, that will take you less than one minute, you can be sure that you will be creating a very unique experience for your patients; one that will result in increased patient satisfaction, patient loyalty, and patients telling others about you and your outstanding practice.

Be certain you have the right chart.

Nothing is more embarrassing to a physician than to be talking to a patient about his medical problem only to find it is the wrong patient. Be especially careful if you have two patients with the same last name and make sure this is noted on both patients' charts. For two patients with the same last name, use the middle initial to distinguish between two similar patients.

Review the chart before entering the room.

You should know the minimum necessary information abut the patients' clinical condition before you enter the exam room. While at the door, review the diagnosis, the treatment previously recommended, i.e., surgery, medications, the results of tests or studies you ordered on the last visit and your treatment plan.

Patients are not impressed when you walk into the room and start shuffling through the chart looking for this information while you are talking to the patient and taking their history. If you have reviewed this minimal amount of material from the chart, you will appear knowledgeable, informed, and truly interested in the patient. Now you can focus on the initial encounter with the patient using good eye contact with the patient.

Social progress notes.

To hurry into a patient's chief medical complaint(s) before showing that you're interested in the whole patient is to miss out on one of medicine's greatest experiences. One of the best ways to lay the groundwork and make your patients feel comfortable is to develop the habit of discussing non-medical topics in the first 30-60 seconds of each patient visit. My rule of thumb for new patients is to spend at least two minutes talking about other subjects before launching into a discussion of what medical problem brought them into the office. The best way to make patients feel comfortable is to show an interest in them beyond your interest in the patients' presenting symptoms or chief complaints.

This is easily accomplished by using a half-page form to be placed in the front of each patient's chart under the demographic information. This form contains the following information:

  1. patient's name
  2. patient's birth date
  3. medical diagnoses
  4. names of patient's or physicians
  5. patient's medications
  6. date prescriptions were last filled
  7. name and telephone number of patient's pharmacy
  8. other miscellaneous information

This information is filled in by both myself and my staff as the appropriate information is obtained.

My staff and I have learned to value the social progress notes. They provide a wonderful way to let our patients know that we care more about them than their diagnoses, medications, and internal organs. And because our patients know we care, they pass the word along. It's a great marketing technique. Remember, patients don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care. There is no better way to demonstrate caring than to use social progress notes.

Pronounce the patient's name correctly.

Everyone likes the sound of their own name. The most important word in the human language to each of us is our own name. You don't win any points with your patients when you mispronounce their name. One of the best ways to pronounce it correctly is to have the receptionist spell the patient's last name phonetically and write it on the label of the chart. For a patient with a last name of Kowaski your receptionist might write cow-a-sock-E. Now when you walk into the room and say the name correctly you will have impressed your patient since the majority of people mispronounce it.

Knock before entering the room.

So many physicians, myself included, will remove the chart from the door with one hand and open the door with the other hand. This maneuver does not give the patient any time to psychologically prepare for your entrance. By knocking, you are announcing to the patient that you are about to enter and you allow them that brief moment to prepare for the visit. Now there is a correct way to knock on the door. Three rapid taps on the door and then opening the door only creates the impression that you are in a hurry and doesn't set the stage for a pleasant encounter with the patient. However, three slow, deliberate knocks prepare the patient for the visit and sets the stage for an enjoyable encounter with the patient.

Tactful, touching is still PC politically correct.

Numerous studies have shown that there is a medicinal value in tactful touching. (As a matter of fact the word tact is from the Latin 'tactus' which means touch.) What did our medical forefathers do before there were drugs and surgery to cure our patients? There was the laying on of the hands. It worked wonders then and still does today. I believe it is one of the reasons that alternative health care providers, such as chiropractors, acupuncturists, massage therapists and reflexologists, are so attractive to patients, because they tactfully touch their patients.

Research by Desmond Morris and others that support touching as healthy: "Babies can die if they are not touched and handled enough, and it's been demonstrated that adults too can suffer from touch deprivation." One piece of research also showed that a librarian who touched customers when handing back books tended to make the female customers feel more positive about the library as a whole.

I am advocating tactful social touching not sexual touching, in the belief that a touch often expresses a lot more warmth in a conversation than a volume of words. Tactful touching can be as simple as shaking the patient's hand, a gentle pat on the shoulder or taking the patient's blood pressure. All of these simple techniques help create a stronger bond between the patient and the doctor.

In my office I have a sign near the check out counter that says, "If you are feeling less than a B+, let us know and we will give you a hug." It is subliminal sign that says we believe in tactful touching and it is amazing to me how many patients will ask to be hugged because they are feeling less than optimum.

There is no other profession that allows such close proximity between the professional and the customerclientpatient as the health care provider and hisher patient. Especially in this era of "high tech" with more advanced machines, computers, and energy sources like lasers, it is important to continue to provide "high touch." High touch can be accomplished simply by just reaching out and tactfully touching someone.

Sit down when talking with a patient.

Don't talk to a patient who is lying flat on the exam table trying to cover themselves with the paper gown or exam sheet. Nothing is more disturbing to a patient than to be seated, or worse lying down, and the doctor stand or tower over them while discussing their medical condition. This is not communicating mano a mano with a patient. When the doctor is standing and the patient seated or lying down on the exam table, the doctor is in a superior position relative to the patient and the patient may feel defensive when they have to look up at the doctor. In order to be on the same page as your patient, make every effort to sit down and be eyeball to eyeball with the patient.

Provide a card for the patient to list the three most important questions they want to ask the doctor or staff during the visit.

There isn't a physician who has not ended experienced the patient encounter with the question, "Do you have any additional questions?" The patient answers no and you exit the room. No sooner are you out of the door on your way to the next exam room and the next patient, that the previous patient stops you in the hall and says, "I have just one more question." You may not have the patient chart, you are mentally tuned out to the patient, and you are thinking about the next patient. You don't want to discuss their medical condition while standing in the hall in ear-shod of other patients. An additional scenario is that the patient will call back resulting in chart retrieval and the possibility of telephone tag trying to reach the patient.

You can alleviate this situation that all of us have experienced by giving each patient a card when they enter the exam room which allows them to write out the three questions they would like to ask the doctor on their visit. Some patients have more than three questions and others have none. But using this card takes the mind reading out of the patient visit and provides the patient the opportunity to think about what is important to them. By using this card you will alleviate the patient stopping you in the hall or calling back to ask additional questions.

Summary

You see, it's not the big, expensive, and time-consuming things that you do that make for effective marketing, but the little things that do make a big difference. These are techniques that all of us can do and the result will be enhanced patient satisfaction and more patients telling their friends, family, and co-workers about their positive experience with you and your practice. Remember, patients are poor judges of the quality of care that you provide but they are great judges of how they are treated by you and your staff. Take a few seconds to give your patients a marketing minute that will make for a memorable visit with their doctor.

In the new millennium all of us will need to make an effort to market our practices. Marketing is not a one-day, one-week, or one-year commitment; it is a lifelong one. To have the successful practice you want, you will always be marketing and promoting your services. There's no better, easier, and inexpensive method to marketing your practice than to take one minute for each patient and search for ways to satisfy your patients and ensure that each patient has a positive experience each and every time they interact with your practice.