Looking to Improve the Patient Experience? First Impressions Count

Seven seconds. Research shows that’s how long it takes to form a first impression … and the brief window of opportunity you have to persuade prospective patients that they should choose you and your practice over the many other available options.

During the COVID-era of medicine, patients became more accustomed to immediate medical care—especially because of telehealth—and the need for a heightened patient experience increased.  In a time of less face-to-face interaction, it is more important than ever to provide exceptional customer service and a sterling first impression.

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To help ensure an optimal experience the first time a patient calls your office or visits your website, we offer the following recommendations:

Make sure a live person always answers the phone—someone both knowledgeable and personable. If the patient needs to be put on hold, the front office staff should first ask permission. Generally, a patient will say “yes,” but never assume. By automatically placing a patient on hold, they don’t feel heard and the patient experience begins on the wrong foot. Remember those impactful first seven seconds!

Optimize your website by making it easy to navigate and useful. Paint a picture of what the patient can expect when coming in for care, through staff biographies and photos of the medical office building and suite. Before an office visit, patients also find online forms they can complete beforehand and directions to the practice helpful.

Consider technology that allows the patient the ability to communicate directly with the provider and office through a portal or HIPAA-compliant direct chat. Building a digital connection with the patient can help foster and strengthen a long-term relationship.

The Magic of “Delighting” Your Patients

To reinforce that outstanding first impression during the patient's first visit and beyond, train your team to delight them. Be clear about what great customer service looks like. It is the simple golden rule that we occasionally need to be reminded of: “Treat others the way you would want to be treated.” 

Your staff training checklist, at a minimum, should include the following:

At check-in:

Greet the patient by preferred name (best to ask how they’d like to be addressed).

Smile, make eye contact, and say to them “we’re glad you are here!”

If the physician is running late, tell the patient right away, letting them know you will keep them updated. Then follow through.

During the visit:

Remember to check on the patient once they are roomed. If the provider is running behind, pop in to advise the patient. Ask them if you can get them anything. Often, patients are forgiving if they are communicated with and acknowledged by the team. 

Ask, “Do you have any questions?”

Walk the patient to checkout and thank them for coming in.

Patients want to know they are valued as an integral part of the practice. By acknowledging them through every step of the way and providing clear, respectful communication, they will feel confident in their decision to join the practice.

For more information on how to delight your patients, please contact Andie Tena, Director of Practice Management Services at 213-473-8630 or via email ATena@CAPphysicians.com.  

Andie Tena is CAP’s Director of Practice Management Services. Questions or comments related to this column should be directed to ATena@CAPphysicians.com.