We are all guilty of it. We get caught up in what we are doing and focused on completing our job that we forget to smile. In a patient or any other customer-facing career, a smile is an integral part of building trust. A smile eases tension and adds warmth. Think about it. When you go to the doctor’s office, bank, grocery store or out to eat, do you want to be serviced by someone who is expressionless or someone who has a smile to share? We are all busy, but in today’s world if you want to grow, you must make a connection with your patients. In fact, your patients’ health depends upon it.
A recent study supported by Kaiser Permanente of Northern California and published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that patients were more likely to follow a newly prescribed medication regimen if they trusted their doctor. While this study focused on patients with diabetes who were prescribed antidepressants, the significance of the results must be considered for all health care practitioners.
A strong doctor/patient bond in most cases, is realized when patients feel they have input in their prescribed care, good communication with their provider and have an overall feeling of trust.
So how do we better connect with patients? The first step is slowing down. This can be difficult to do in a busy medical practice, but a smile takes just a few seconds. Another recommendation is to use eye contact. A common complaint of patients with regard to the health care industry is an overall feeling that they are just a number and not a person. One of the best ways to make a patient feel important is by looking them in the eye when you are speaking to them. And don’t forget to smile!
If you are not already doing so, begin surveying patients on their experience. Patient surveys provide the practice with valuable data about how they are performing and what improvements can be made. Patients want to be taken seriously. If you are going to take the time to ask them what they think, be ready to make some changes. If you begin making improvements to the areas commented on, you are almost guaranteed to see a big increase in patient satisfaction scores.
Connecting with patients is an ongoing process. By considering each patient encounter to be an opportunity to grow, your attitude shifts from quantity to quality, and that is how great practices become even greater.