Health is one of the most valuable things to any individual. As someone who has an impact on a patient’s wellbeing, lending a listening ear to fears and concerns is important for you to remember, because it is one of the most direct ways to grow your medical practice. Unfortunately, it’s not always the easiest thing to do. But just as there are many different sorts of patients, there are many different ways to open up patient dialogue, and some of them are easier than you would think! Recently I had a chance to witness an impressive display of sensitivity by a physician. This doctor was alone at a table eating lunch while talking on the phone with a patient’s spouse. They were having a very calm and collected discussion that lasted nearly half an hour. The conversation must have taken up most of the doctor’s lunch break, and it touched me that this doctor would take time out of his or her personal schedule to spend addressing the concerns of the patient and family.
How many times has someone told you that asking questions is the key to good rapport? You may have found that it’s easier said than done. When in a room with a patient, it may be easy to find yourself dominating the conversation. Most patients consider their doctor to be the most trusted source of information, so when you are speaking, they are likely to sit back and listen, regardless of what you are saying. But even when you do ask questions, you may receive little more than one-word answers. It can be frustrating, no doubt.
Sometimes it’s simply that patients forget to ask questions. How common is it for a person to leave a place of business – say, the grocery store – and remember hours later that he forgot something – like, the milk! It’s just as common for patients to come into your office with a head full of questions, only to forget them once they are in your presence. But unlike the grocery store – where a person can turn around and go back for what he forgot – coming back to your office to speak with you in person may not be such a simple task. It involves appointments, copays, perhaps even time off of work. Is it any wonder why some patients find their physicians so difficult to talk to!
One alternative is to make yourself available via telephone, but that’s not always a viable option, either. My personal physician, for example, tells me to call her at the office any time I have questions. But when I call the office to ask, do you know what I usually end up speaking with? A machine! Of course, I understand why. My physician is simply too busy seeing other patients to spend time on the telephone with me. But it would be nice to talk to a real person every once and a while, regardless of whether it’s a doctor or a nurse or a receptionist.
Patients understand that their physicians cannot be available to them 24-7, but did you know that nowadays there is a way to lend an ear beyond the exam room doors? Social media is not only a successful medical marketing tool, but it is a way for patients to speak with you about their concerns without having to leave their comfort zone. If you have not already considered implementing a social media strategy, we here at MindStream Creative have the information and the expertise to assist you.
You may not realize how easy it is to make yourself more available to your patients. Consider simple things, such as asking a patient to bring a list of questions with them on their next visit. You might consider setting up a telephone conference. You might even be able to hand the patient a card that reminds them to find you on Facebook or on your website. Not only can these simple gestures lead to increases in patient satisfaction, but it can also bring in word-of-mouth referrals. Being emotionally available to your patients is something that you should never take for granted. Your patients certainly do not!