By Justin L. Manning, OD, MPH, FAAO
Feb. 26, 2020
Your patients see things differently than you or your staff do. You and the team are in the office nearly every day. Your patients are not. Therefore, they’ll see the experience from fresh eyes, seeing the good and bad that are easy for the team to miss.
Patients and consumers today have no shortage of options in where to get eyecare. Therefore, the biggest differentiator your office can provide is the patient experience. You cannot develop a patient experience program without starting from your patients’ point of view. Seeing the practice through your patient’s eyes means evaluating their entire experience, from start to finish, not in your own context, but from their perspective.
Walk Into Your Office as a Patient Would
I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of doctors and staff enter through a side or back door and never see the office as their patient does. Walk in after your office has opened. Look at your front desk, see how your front desk team greets patients. Look at the appearance of your reception area. Is your optical inviting and are your frame boards full? Is your reception area clean and comfortable? These are all things the patient sees before they have even checked in.
Make an Effort to Observe the Patient Experience Yourself
It is rare for the practice owner to have enough down time to observe the flow of the office, but it is essential to building the patient experience. No one will be as critical of the office flow and experience as the practice owner. They have the most riding on the practice’s success, and therefore, should be the most hypercritical.
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While not a practice owner, I have always believed in the power of creating the best patient experience. I often would stand at the front desk in between patients to interact with team members and observe what worked and what didn’t. I could then provide feedback to the rest of the team on how we could do better or bring recognition to those doing things we should continue and expand.
Get Input on Patient Experience from Staff
Engage your team in creating the patient experience. Many support staff employees are in the health-care space because they want to take care of people. Taking care of people means not only correcting their vision or managing their medical eyecare concerns, but also providing the highest level of customer service.
Observe Your Front Desk & Have a Friend Do the Same
Aside from your web site/social media, your front desk is the first and last impression a patient has of your office. You can learn a lot about how patients are greeted in scheduling an appointment by calling your office line. Secret shop your own practice over the phone.
A trusted friend is a great way to gain insight into your office flow and team. Each team member is busy with their essential roles, and therefore, it’s not easy for someone inside the practice to evaluate the office flow objectively.
Learn From the Competition
Visit and shadow practices that are not your competition, and learn from them. What do they do well? What are things you would do differently? Often, it takes getting out of your practice to gain greater insight into your practice.
Learn From Businesses Outside of Optometry
Learn from the most successful hospitality companies. Colorado Springs boasts the longest running AAA 5-diamond hotel with the Broadmoor Resort, earning the award for 43 straight years. A AAA 5-diamond or Forbes 5-star hotel earns those awards not based on the quality of the hotel, rooms or beds, but on the quality of the service. You can expect to be greeted by name and have your needs anticipated and addressed before you can even vocalize them. From experience, applying these same principles in practice goes a long way to impact the patient experience and the bottom line.
Ask Patients How You’re Doing
Surveying patients, when done well, is the easiest way to gain insight into their experience in your office. However, the questions have to be meaningful. Surveying must also happen right after their experience. There are two reasons for this:
1. If they had a great experience, their emotions are highest and they’re more motivated to tell you what you did well and write a review.
2. If they had a poor experience, it gives you the opportunity to learn right away and then fix it. According to MyFeedBack, 91 percent of unhappy customers leave a business due to a negative experience. If you can fix the problem as soon as possible, it improves the likelihood the patient will return.
Texting is often the easiest way to get individuals to fill out a survey. Electronic survey solutions like SurveyMonkey and Typeform make surveys easy and fun to fill out. Offering a perk to the patient can also be a benefit that increases the likelihood of filling out a survey.
Key Questions to ask:
1. Were you greeted with a smile and a warm welcome when you walked through the door?
2. What did you enjoy most about your visit?
3. What is one thing we could have done to make your experience better?
4. How likely are you to recommend us to your family or friends?
Get Started Today
Designing and implementing a patient experience program within your office takes work, but has the potential to greatly impact the success of your practice. Happier patients are more likely to refer friends and family members. Happier patients also result in happier team members, which further drives happier patients. It’s a win-win for everyone.