What Not to Do If You Want to Keep Patients

As a medical practice, keeping patients healthy may be job number one, but keeping them happy should also be high on your list of priorities. Happy patients return, refer and recommend your practice to friends, family and colleagues. You probably already know what you should do to keep them happy, but have you ever considered what you shouldn’t do? Below, please find a list of “don’ts”…

1) Don’t cancel appointments for no good reason

Whenever possible, keep an appointment once it has been made. Time is valuable. Patients often have to make time in their schedules to fit in doctor’s appointments, which typically means childcare arrangements and/or time off from work. Cancelled appointments, especially when they happen repeatedly, can result in patients moving on and finding another practice to handle their medical needs. This should go without saying, but don’t cancel a surgery either. All of the time and arrangements made for a typical appointment are much more significant when surgery is involved.

2) Don’t keep patients waiting

It can’t always be helped, but one of the chief complaints when a patient has a bad experience is wait time. To keep things flowing:

  • Don’t schedule the first appointment of the day at the same time the physicians and staff are set to arrive
  • Adjust appointment scheduling methods
  • Develop and enforce a policy for late arrivals or no-shows
  • Ensure paperwork is complete in advance of the appointment

When appointments do fall behind, a clean and comfortable waiting room is a must to make the waiting experience more tolerable.

3) Don’t appear disorganized

We see this time and time again with online reviews – patients complaining about lost records, misunderstandings with appointment times or office locations, not following through with insurance claims, failing to order tests, etc. All of these issues lead to one conclusion: Your practice doesn’t have its act together. The most skilled physician is only as good as the infrastructure surrounding the practice. The bottom line is: Don’t lose credibility because of operational issues.

4) Don’t hire and keep unprofessional staff

Whether your staff members are rude to patients or rude to each other, the end result is the same: a poor experience for your patients. Personal conversations should not take place in front of patients. Neither should discussing issues with other members of the staff. It may sound ridiculous, but when the front reception staff is mocking the medical staff (and vice versa), the tone and professionalism of the office is brought down, and medical competancy will be called into question by your patients. It may seem like it is easier to keep a staff member that is “good at the job” despite his/her poor attitude, but in reality, addition by subtraction can raise the morale of the office and improve things overall.

5) Don’t be distracted during appointments

Your patients have chosen you for their medical care or were referred by another trusted physician. Blowing the relationship by not being “present” during the appointment can make patients feel as if they are not worthy of your time. Or, that you won’t put your best effort forward in helping them deal with whatever condition is ailing them. In addition to the patient losing confidence, your relationship with the referring physician may be harmed, as well. When enough patients complain, that referral stream can dry up.

6) Don’t make the process of getting an appointment harder than it needs to be

Setting up obstacles during the appointment process can manifest in a variety of ways. You may not be aware that this is even happening. Signs that your practice is making it hard to schedule can include:

  • Not responding to website form submissions
  • Using negative language on the phone, such as “We can’t get you in until…”
  • Collecting more information during the scheduling process than is actually needed
  • Not giving your scheduling staff the details they need to be able to answer questions and make decisions

7) Don’t allow your facilities to deteriorate

Outdated waiting areas, stale-looking exam rooms and poorly signed buildings give the impression that you don’t care about your space. It can also give the appearance of being dingy or dirty, which is a big no-no in an environment that should be clean and sanitary. Waiting areas are the first physical impression. Ripped/stained seats, piles of old magazines and yellowing paint may wind up being what the patient remembers most about his/her visit. Review sites also request details about the condition of the facilities, which will force patients to recall their experiences even after they may have pushed it out of their minds.

8) Don’t ignore patient privacy

In addition to possible HIPAA violations, loud conversations in a crowded waiting room about an awkward situation – be it medical or billing related – is a sure fire way to leave a patient feeling uncomfortable. It also indicates to other patients within earshot that you don’t take privacy seriously and they may be next.

9) Don’t keep patients on hold or not respond to emails and voicemails

Placing someone on hold for an inordinate amount of time without checking back to give a status update is bad form. However, not responding to a voicemail about a medical issue or failing to respond to a medication refill can be flat out dangerous. Would you want to be ignored? Would you want your mother’s oxygen request to go unfilled? Put yourself in your patient’s shoes and treat him/her the way you would want to be treated.

Patients have entrusted you and your practice with their care. That relationship can not be taken for granted. If your practice is looking to improve patient experience, contact us today.


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