I spend a lot of my time in physicians’ offices, thankfully for me most of the time it is in a consulting role and not as a patient. Here is one thing that I have learned over the years, often times, physicians look at their patients only as patients and not as consumers of services. On a whole, this is a good thing when the physician is truly trying to get into crux of your medical condition. I believe that this is an important aspect that physicians often overlook in their practice.
I often speak with physician practices about the relationships that they have with their customers and how it begins when you walk in the door. There are numerous studies about human behavior and perceived barriers to support this. For example, think about your first impression when walking into a doctor’s office. Imagine this: a large, loud, overcrowded lobby and you walk up to a desk, with a piece of frosted glass that you stand in front of and hope that the staff can see your silhouette through the barely transparent pane. As a consumer, what does this situation feel like to you? What does it say to me? It says that this practice doesn’t understand relationships because it is cold and unwelcoming. It says that even before the consumer sees the physician, there is a barrier in communication and in building a relationship built on trust and transparency.
Another common issue when consulting in the health care industry is the lack of communication between patients and physicians. We are all busy and at times and we have all run behind schedule. However, if this is a consistent issue, it says to me that the system is broke and your customer should not suffer because of your lack of scheduling prowess or desire to be on time. Again, I understand things come up, however, there better be a constant line of communication between the staff, the physician and customer.
I often ask the doctors, “Is it acceptable for you to go to Best Buy to purchase a TV and stand in line for an hour?” Typically the answer is, “no, but that is different.” I always respond that there is absolutely no difference. In our service driven society, customers have choices, they have a choice where to buy a TV, or where they obtain medical services. By accepting the fact that your customers believe it is ok for them to wait for a physician’s time, it adds another barrier to developing the strong relationship that is needed between a patient (customer) and their physician.
My advice as a patient and consultant, never accept these barriers when it comes to choosing a physician. You have choices and there are plenty of physicians out there that do the right thing, in a welcoming, nurturing and learning environment. Often times, physician’s need to look objectively at their practice and ask, “Would I accept barriers to my enjoyment when paying for a service?” If the answer is ‘no’, consider changes, if necessary. Take down the frosted glass, review your scheduling and staffing and make time for the unexpected during the day. Difficult changes will pay many for themselves many times over by retaining customers and generating new ones from the positive buzz that this new and inviting atmosphere creates.