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Chiropractic News

February 2011

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Exceed patient expectations

A few simple tips can help you avoid careless mistakes and leave your patients happy and healthy

By Bob Levoy

“Exceed patient expectations” has become the mantra of almost every article and seminar about practice improvement. Not only is that easier said than done, it’s getting more difficult by the day.

To start, consider some of the ways patient expectations are formed:

Word-of-mouth

The more new patients hear about you from current patients, physicians, and other referral sources, the higher their expectations. If you and your staff don’t live up to that reputation, referred patients will be disappointed and, as a result, tell the person (or the physician) who referred them to your practice.

Compounding the problem is the chance that a disgruntled patient will post his or her complaint on the Internet.

The following is a post by a patient explaining why she left her chiropractor:

“I had been going (to my chiropractor) for about three months, and when I asked her about my progress, I got a very vague, ‘Well, it takes time.’ Basically: keep spending your money on me, and we’ll see what happens. At least, that’s how I felt. I loved everyone else in the office, but I couldn’t justify continuing to put money into a practice where the primary caregiver gave me an answer like that. I just felt cheated.”

The impact from negative word-of-mouth, especially when posted on the Internet, can be devastating.

Action steps: When dealing with referred patients, you and your staff need to live up to the good things patients have been told about your practice. You can’t afford the kind of slip-ups that a loyal patient would forgive.

Checking Internet postings, periodic patient surveys, and focus groups can keep you apprised of the good (and occasionally bad) things patients may be saying about your practice.

As Ken Blanchard wrote in The One Minute Manager, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”

Past perfect

Unfortunately, there’s no way of avoiding

comparisons with chiropractors your patients may have seen in the past.

You may think you and your staff are doing more for patients and doing it better than others — but if patients don’t agree, you’ve fallen short of their expectations. Perception, as they say, is reality.

Action step: To the extent you can, learn what new patients expect on a visit to your office and what they would like to happen, or perhaps not happen, if they’ve been previously disappointed by another office.

New patients often share the reason they left their previous chiropractor. Others remain close-mouthed about it. If this happens, you and your staff are in the dark as to what, if anything, went wrong and how you might prevent the same thing from happening in your office.

During the “get-acquainted” portion of a new patient visit, consider asking a question such as the following: “If you don’t mind my asking, could you please tell me the reason you left your previous chiropractor? If there were problems of any kind, I want to make sure they don’t happen here.”

By telling patients your reason for asking, they may be more likely to open-up and tell you their true feelings.

Their complaints may have to do with billing problems, the doctor’s arrogance, insurance coverage, or any of the things that cause patients to leave one practice for another.

There will be patients who truly liked their previous chiropractor and regretted having to leave. If appropriate, inquire as to the reasons for their affection and loyalty. Those, too, will be helpful in enabling you and your staff to meet such patients’ expectations.

Hard-learned lesson: Repeating the same blunder that caused a patient to leave his or her previous chiropractor is careless — especially when it is so easily avoided.

Bob Levoy’s newest book 222 Secrets of Hiring, Managing, and Retaining Great Employees in Healthcare Practices, is published by Jones and Bartlett Publishers. He can be reached at blevoy@verizon.net.

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