There is nothing predictable about visiting the doctor, especially when it comes to the wait. Wait times vary significantly from provider to provider. The practices with the leanest wait times will at some point, run behind. Emergencies continue to happen, which backs our schedules up. One of the worst things you can do is ignore an unhappy patient who is tired of waiting. An effective marketing strategy includes implementing ways to increase patient satisfaction. There are many ways to make the wait appear shorter, thereby creating happier patients. Here are a few:
Communicate: Nothing is more frustrating than checking into the doctor’s office and then wondering if they even know you are there because you have been waiting so long to be called back. A friend recently shared how she waiting 2 hours before her insurance information was collected by the front desk staff. She then waited another hour in the exam room before seeing the doctor. The reason for her extended wait was that she was being worked into the doctor’s schedule. Had she known she would be waiting so long, she would have scheduled for another day.
Recommendation #1: If you are running behind, let your patients know. Offer them the option of rescheduling or grabbing a bite to eat. This shows them that you appreciate their time and allows them to make the choice of whether or not to wait.
Distract: Magazines offer a great diversion from what is going on in the office. However, they must be kept up with to prevent 2009 versions of People from sitting in your lobby. What magazines don’t do is help your practice grow. Take advantage of your captive audience by introducing them to the services and procedures you offer. Most patients are unaware that their doctor or the other doctors in the group, offer services other than what they are there for. This is a significant loss of potential revenue. One of the best ways to keep them up to speed on all that you do is to use digital signage. Digital signage uses large flat screen monitors in key locations throughout the office. The monitors display a video loop that showcases educational and marketing messages on the products and services provided. One word of caution, if going the digital signage route, be sure to keep your messages fresh and relevant. Otherwise it will get ignored just like the old People magazine you forgot to throw away.
Recommendation #2: Implement point of care marketing throughout the practice to help the patient understand all that you offer. This can be done well with digital signage, before and after photos as well as brag books full of glowing testimonials from patients.
Refresh: I love going to the doctor’s office and finding that they offer refreshments. This is still a new concept and will be greatly appreciated by your patients. Offer a refreshment station, providing beverages such as coffee, tea and water to your patients. This will make them more comfortable while they wait, which leads to a more positive temperament.
Recommendation #3: Offer your patients beverages. Buy a beverage refrigerator and put water bottles inside it or go green and put a water cooler and cups in your waiting room. Place a single cup coffee maker on top or nearby if using a water cooler and voilà, refreshed, happier patients!
Don’t ignore your patients. They chose you to provide good care to them. This does not just include the medical tests and treatment they receive. This includes the ambience in the office as well as the friendliness of the staff. If you incorporate ways to make your patients more comfortable while they wait, they will be more patient with you when you need them to be.