This concept may sound pretty basic, but there is a lot behind it. With this philosophy, you will generate tons of referrals and patients will walk out of your office feeling that they made the right choice in seeing you.
Let’s face it; in any medical school classroom, podiatry or chiropody class, or any academic venue, some students are keener than others. Of course, some get higher grades than their classmates, but they may not do any better in practice. The students have all received the same training yet some succeed far better than others, regardless of what grade they received. Basic knowledge is given to each student by virtue of their having been granted a degree. But once they are out in the real world, what is it that determines their level of success, assuming all obvious factors such as location are relatively equal? Knowledge is of course a factor. What about personality? Obviously you have to be able to communicate with patients and develop a rapport. What about luck? Luck always helps, but as the saying goes, “the harder I work, the luckier I get”. There is something in dealing with patients that can put you head and shoulders above your colleagues.
Patients are of course concerned with what you know. They are coming to see you because they need a foot specialist. Someone who, by virtue of their title and training, can examine them and find out what’s wrong. Your title tells them that you can relieve their pain and help them get on with their life without a nagging foot problem. This applies to everyone with your title who came out of school. While patients accept that your knowledge of foot problems can help them, there is something more… an intangible, and your patients will see is clearly in their first visit with you. That secret is your showing them just how much you care! Sounds simple, but it’s true. Patients don’t care about how much you know, but how much you care.
So, how do you show you care?
You can improve the way you practice in several ways. It may require a little more time with each patient, but it won’t slow you down and it will be worth its weight in gold. In return, you will have patients enthusiastically referring their friends and family to you, leave positive reviews, and be a happier and more satisfied patient.
- Shaking their hand sounds basic, but it is important. Look them in the eye when you say hello. A warm smile will always create a positive first impression.
- Upon your initial meeting spend a moment getting to know the patient as a person (rather than just a clinic entity). You may have something in common to talk about and use as a ice breaker, so make them comfortable and increase familiarity.
- A little small talk goes a long way. Rather than asking “yes” or “no” questions, try some leading questions of how, when, where, why variety that will get them talking. Just a few moments before getting into their foot issues and asking about why they came in. Instead of asking this right away, they will be more at ease and will feel grateful you took the time to get to know them a little.
- Listen intently to what the patient is saying, and don’t appear to be bored or distracted by looking at your devices or elsewhere in the room- focus on them. Occasionally nod and give phrases of understanding. Don’t interrupt them, and give them a chance to talk. Someone patients have rehearsed what they are going to tell you and will be frustrated if they can’t get it all out. A slight lean toward the patient shows them you are concerned and interested.
- Patience is key. Even if you know the pain in their heel first thing in the morning is plantar fasciitis, don’t be in a hurry to blurt out their diagnosis. Take the time to discuss the various aspects of their complaint. Ask a lot of questions, and let them view you as a thorough practitioner. Keep interested in what your patient is telling you. They may have come a long way (physically, and metaphorically) to come see you. Your strict attentiveness will be reassuring and impressive at the same time.
Using these tips on your initial visit will get you well on your way to having a successful experience in the mind of your patient. You will have developed a rapport. This positive experience can lead to patient compliance to treatment recommendations, and better health for your patient.
Dr. Lloyd Nesbitt, DPM