Proper Etiquette Influences Patient Experiences and Outcomes

When working in the healthcare environment, “sweating the small stuff” is just part of an ordinary day. But add to that declining reimbursements, increasing overhead, healthcare reform, office politics and more, and the stress factor multiplies. Regardless of these taxing aspects, patients should not be made to feel the burden of a practice’s daily pressures. Maintaining proper etiquette throughout the day––even when times are tough––will help patients feel comfortable, trust your judgment, and ensure their loyalty to your practice.

Happy Patients are Loyal Patients

In today’s modern world, people are seeking better experiences, no matter the landscape—from retail to hospitality to healthcare and so on. Thus, to create loyalty while drawing in new patients, patient satisfaction has become a rapidly growing focus for healthcare organizations. If your practice provides great care to patients—whether it’s in the lobby or the examination room—people will find out. By mouth, word already travels fast; via the internet, however, it can spread like wildfire. One satisfied patient promotes your services, lauding your practice to friends, family and their social community, driving new clientele and revenue. But this cuts both ways. In the USA, the loss of a single patient due to dissatisfaction can result in the loss of over $200,000 in income over the lifetime of the practice. Further, that disgruntled patient’s comments about your practice will likely lead to exponential losses in future clientele and revenue.

Throughout the day, though, you and your staff are placed in a spectrum of emotional highs and lows with each patient encountered, not to mention increasingly complex workflows and ever-changing regulations that must be managed as well. As such, it can be challenging to keep up a happy veneer as the day wears on and crises continue to roll in. However, each patient is entrusting their health to you, so it’s essential to practice patience and present a pleasant demeanor despite any unpleasant internal or external factors.

Every patient wants to be treated as an individual; thus, remaining objective while personalizing the visit through engagement, comfort and clear communication is crucial to their experience. In fact, patient experience is positively associated with clinical effectiveness and patient safety, and support the case for the inclusion of patient experience as one of the central pillars of quality in healthcare. Therefore, paying mind to how you communicate and engage with each patient—or in other words, practicing proper etiquette—can not only make your job easier, but improve health outcomes and ensure patient loyalty as well.

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Practice Etiquette Reminder Tips

So, what are the best ways to ensure your practice is practicing proper etiquette?

  1. Look Professional –– Staff should appear well-kempt and approachable.
  2. Greet Guests –– Welcoming patients makes your practice inviting, beginning their experience on a pleasant note.
  3. Give Updates –– Many patients may feel uneasy about their medical visit. If there’s a long wait time, keep patients updated on when the doctor will be ready for them. During the appointment, let patients know what your plan is before acting—from taking their blood pressure to drawing blood or administering a shot, etc.
  4. Chat Casually –– Asking about travel plans, recent holidays, and general small talk will allow for a natural connection between staff and patients. Further, talking about things other than the appointment will help to ease the patient, making it simpler to discuss medical concerns as the conversation continues.
  5. Be Present –– Body language is important. If you are fiddling around, slouching or looking down, patients will know you are disengaged and distracted. It’s vital to give patients your undivided attention to ensure proper diagnosis and patient satisfaction. Both smiling and eye contact will help your patients feel heard and cared for.
  6. Take Your Time –– Do not rush patients when appointments are running longer than preferred. Take the time to understand why they came in, let them ask questions, and provide details on plans to move forward.
  7. Be Clear –– Let patients know when they can expect results, when they should schedule their next appointment, signs to pay attention to, etc., before they leave, keeping everyone on the same page while avoiding confusion and uncertainty.
  8. Avoid Drama –– Keep strained relationships with coworkers quiet. Not everyone is going to get along, but it’s imperative to keep patients comfortable, which is nearly impossible in a drama-crazed environment.
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Promoting Outcomes Through Positive Patient Experiences

Impressions can last a lifetime, and can directly affect your organization––so make them count!

Implementing etiquette protocols while properly engaging with patients via clear communication and meaningful interactions will keep your practice running smoothly. Further, patients who feel their time was well-spent during their appointment leave your office feeling better, prompting them to share their experience with others.

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