How Comfortable Is Your Office?
The appearance of your office and how you furnish it make an important impression on your patients and can affect their feelings of comfort and safety.
Consider the following:
- Are magazines scattered around your office or neatly stacked?
- Are they interesting magazines and not out-of-date?
- Are there fresh flowers in your waiting room or dusty fake plants?
- Is the restroom clean and always supplied?
- Considering the rise in obesity, are your chairs large enough to accommodate overweight patients, and do you provide large-size gowns?
Staff should be trained to consider the patient's state of mind.
Visiting a physician's office is often a stressful event.
A physician takes patient's blood pressure when he first go into the exam room and just before he leave.
It is always lower the second time - clearly a function of reduced anxiety.
Moreover, a caring and helpful reception staff will make the front office run more efficiently.
Here are some observations and suggestions for improving the quality of the patient's experience:
- The office reception staff can take 2 simple - but very important - steps when first encountering the patient:
Smile and learn the patients' names.
A personal greeting and a friendly smile for all patients - both new and old - can go a long way to reducing that stress and give the impression that the patient is not just a number on an insurance card.
- After you buzz patients into your office, they should be promptly attended to, not left to wait alone in a chilly office with a flimsy dressing gown.
- If the physician is running late, the receptionist should inform the patient as soon as this is known as well as the approximate time when the physician is expected back in the office.
This will allow the patient to step out of the office for some coffee or to make a phone call or even reschedule.
The receptionist may even volunteer specific information on the reasons for the delay, eg, "the physician had an emergency at the hospital."
We have experienced apparent indifference from medical receptionists to long delays and even annoyance if a patient asks:
"How much longer until I get to see the physician?"
Certainly, it never hurts to apologize:
"I'm sorry that we are running late, but you can be sure that the physician will give you all the time you need when you see him."
- When a new patient is told to fill out the myriad of papers required for a first visit, the receptionist should offer to help with any questions that arise - not only for those patients who might be unfamiliar with the language or have low literacy, but for any patient.
Patients at all levels of literacy can be confused by these documents and "feel dumb" about asking for clarification.
For practices with multiple staff personnel, it is fine to have a positive spirit among your workers, but, for the patient, few experiences at the medical office produce more anger and frustration than being ignored by office staff because of a personal conversation on the phone or with coworkers.
The medical profession is a service industry, and it is the patients who are being served.