What are the benefits of quality care in developing and building your practice? The definition of quality care is different for each style and type of practice. What one technique dictates as a necessity in the delivery of quality care may not necessarily hold true for another technique. One technique may be more concerned with spinal change, while another is more focused on immediate symptomatology.
Most, if not all, doctors who are vested in their practice and are concerned about their patients provide a high level of patient care within the framework of the technique they practice. However, it is easy to point to dramatic differences – financially speaking – in various doctors’ practices at which quality care is a common denominator. On the other hand, you can look at two doctors who run equally successful practices but have totally different definitions and applications of quality patient care.
After many years of observing thriving practices and interviewing successful doctors, I have found that a solid doctor/patient experience is the common thread that creates an environment of success. This type of quality experience hinges on consistent, effective communication between the doctor and the patient.
There are many aspects of patient communication that either enhance or minimize the doctor/patient relationship. A few of the cornerstones are:
- You should never have a pre-determined agenda. Some doctors choose to work with a daily agenda that requires the entire office staff, including the doctor, to educate patients about a “topic of the day.” Theoretically, this can be an excellent way to educate patients about chiropractic. However, in application, this idea usually fails miserably.
Say you have a patient come into your office complaining about low back pain. She tells you how the condition is compromising her ability to care for her children and home. She is looking to you for advice to help remedy this situation. Yet the topic of the day is “headaches.” So the patient receives a load of information on how chiropractic can help headaches. Great information – it’s just going to the wrong patient on the wrong day! What is the result? You and your staff have missed an opportunity to provide a quality and appropriate educational experience.
Each patient wants and needs to be handled on an individual basis on each and every visit. The best way to educate patients is to give them information that is relevant and piques their interest, so they will be more likely to retain the ideas. What better way to do that than to provide information that involves their personal concerns and personal lifestyle needs? You need to listen and understand each patients’ concerns on every single visit and direct communications directly to those concerns.
- You need to use your skills of observation. The power of observation is generally underplayed and can work to your advantage. When I first began practicing, I was told never to work with patients until they were lying down on the adjusting table. The reason for this advice was to eliminate any wasted time while the patient prepared for an adjustment. In theory, the concept is true. This system can be more time-effective for day-to-day adjusting.
Realistically, however, a lot of valuable information is lost if you greet the patient while he or she is lying face-down on an adjusting table. The power of direct eye contact, and the ability to observe the patient moving from the door to the table or engaging in an every day activity like removing a jacket, can give you insight into the patient’s condition or progress.
For example, you see a patient for a follow-up appointment, and you reinforce the progress he is making by saying: “When I saw you come in last week, you could barely take your coat off without cringing in pain. Yet today, I noticed you not only removing your coat easily, but you were even smiling in the process. Isn’t it amazing how pain can complicate the simple things in life! Come on over to the table for your adjustment so we can keep you on this positive track!”
In this situation, your observation of the patient’s movement, direct eye contact, the absence of an agenda, and your acknowledgement of the patient’s progress all play a vital role in establishing a powerful and memorable doctor/ patient relationship. Most importantly, the patient has had a positive experience and likely feels that you are dealing with him as an individual person with individual concerns, rather than just another face in a busy office.
- Be aware of an individual’s personality style. It is important to know how each of your patients processes information. Some patients may process best through emotion and enthusiasm, and others do better with facts and statistics. You must be aware of each patient’s style, or you will encounter communication problems nearly equivalent to a language barrier. The information you are trying to convey may be valuable, but the patient will not be able to grasp it if you don’t communicate in the manner most appropriate for him or her.
I have been in practice for more than 10 years now, and have been on an ongoing quest for not only personal improvement, but that of my practice (and therefore, my patients). I have found these three aspects of patient communication are the cornerstones in the development of a successful and timeless practice that withstands outside influences such as economy and insurance issues. Applying these time-proven points has helped me create a loyal and satisfied patient base. I am confident that they will help you do the same.