Many chiropractic practices today are searching for the secret formula to improve patient enrollment. Attracting new patients and improving your conversion rate is easier than you think if you become a patient-centered practice, focusing on your patients' needs.How do you "wow" your new patients and what are you doing to become a patient-centered practice? Remember, it is not only what you do for your patients, as much as what you don't do for them. Here are seven of the top ways chiropractors can impress their patients or turn them off.
1. Eliminate Patient Aggravations
Think about the last time you had a doctor's appointment. What aggravated you about the visit? A patient-centered practice will eliminate or solve patient aggravations before they occur. Is paperwork an issue in your practice? At every visit, patients and chiropractors are required to complete paperwork that updates the information documented on the previous visit. Certainly, it makes sense to ask about changes the patient has experienced since their last visit. However, you'll turn even the best patients off overwhelming them with redundant paperwork that doesn't illicit any new information. Schedule a team meeting and start a list of issues you have heard from your patients about their experiences in your office. Take each issue and come up with solutions. Once you have a solution, role-play with your team members and then practice, practice, practice. Be sure your entire team knows how to handle every situation with a friendly smile.
2. Perform as Promised
Don't make promises to patients that you can't keep. You manage your patients' expectations by what you say on the telephone, in the literature that you mail out and from the information on your website. What promises are you making? Do you promise not to keep your patients waiting? Being called from the reception room to the exam room should depend on when each person arrived; it should not be totally random. Few things frustrate patients as much as seeing someone who clearly came in after them called to see the doctor before they should be. It is never pleasant to have to deal with the reactions of patients when others are called out of turn. Make it an unforgivable offense not to keep your promises 100% of the time. If not, you are not meeting and exceeding the expectations you have set for your practice.
3. Manage the New Patient's Experience
A patient's first experience in your office should be personal and enjoyable. The first time a patient receives chiropractic care can be anxiety inducing. The chiropractor may perform several tests, take x-rays and perform other procedures that are new to the patient. Take time to explain the procedures you are performing, what their purpose is and why you are ordering any special tests or radiographs. Perhaps part of greeting your new patients could include finding out what they expect of the visit. Get to know their fears. Often, it is the little touches and comments that have nothing to do with their initial consultation or exam that a patient remembers. Was it a comment from you on their smile or how great their outfit looks? Or, could it be that you looked them directly in the eyes and said, "I'm really glad you chose our practice. We will do our very best to help you." It is hard to put your finger on exactly what it will be that will give the patient a warm feeling about you and your practice. Just put yourself in your patients' place, think of them first and you can't lose.
4. Involve the New Patient
Most new patients want to know everything that is going on. What do you do to make the patient feel part of the process? Do you leave the new patient alone waiting for you in your consult room for more than five minutes? Have one of your team members take new patients on a mini-tour of your practice, if you know they will have to wait to see you. You can also have a team member help patients complete their initial paperwork prior to seeing you and placing it in a specific area for you to read before you see the patient. In this way, when the patient enters the consultation room, you can immediately focus on building a relationship and educating them about their chiropractic experience.
5. Have Fun
Some chiropractors are masters at entering every room looking harried and rushed. This attitude makes patients feel guilty about burdening the doctor with any more information. It can be stressful when a patient comes in with a list of problems that they need to relate to you and you need to document and attend to. We need to learn to laugh at ourselves and with our patients. When we enjoy what we do and are not afraid to have some fun, our patients will follow our lead. Patient contests, practice events and seasonal themes are very popular in chiropractic practices. The success of these fun events will only be as successful as you and your practice team's enthusiasm towards patient participation.
6. Recover Remarkably
To admit an error, apologize and make it right is patient-centered chiropractic. Don't try to cover up a mistake or, worse yet, blame the patient. Be sincere and the patient will respect you more for making the effort to improve their service. Have you ever had a new patient show up without an appointment? Do you tell them you are sorry, but they will have to come back on another day and time? If your goal is to "wow" your new patients 100% of the time, your team should make every effort to see the drop-in new patient while they are in your office. You may have another exam in progress, and a full reception room, but the most important thing should be to see this new patient as soon as possible.
7. Do Everything Better
Be aware of what other successful chiropractic practices are doing. In fact, study any business that successfully services its customers. Exceptional customer service, or lack of service, can be seen everywhere. Observe, learn, take notes, capture the good ideas and eliminate the bad ones. Think about how you answer the telephone, how you ask for patient information and enter the data in your computer system. What can you do to be better, more efficient or make the patient feel you are the best practice in town?
Creating a "wow" experience for your new patients takes a team effort and a lot of hard work. Take the time to teach your team how to be a patient-centered chiropractic practice, where every aspect of your patients' experience is based on what is best for them. After all, we know that most patients would rather not receive health care, but when they do, we want them to say, "Wow, when I need chiropractic care again, I wouldn't think of going anywhere else!"
Dr. Mark Sanna, a 1987 graduate of New York Chiropractic College, is a member of the ACA Governor's Advisory Board and a member of the President's Circle of NYCC and Parker College of Chiropractic. He is the president and CEO of Breakthrough Coaching (www.mybreakthrough.com).