Hospitality. A noun. It means “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors or strangers.” It’s being nice. It’s treating people with kindness whether you know them or not. It’s going above and beyond to exceed expectations. Make sure people are taken care of. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Literally, who wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of that?
It’s sad how little we actually see hospitality in action, though. We complain about its absence all the time. At the grocery store when the checkout person tosses our goods to the bagger and we’re just sure the pretzels have been crushed into teeny tiny bits. At the drive-through window, when the employee barely looks you in the eye as he hands you your drink… which happens to be dripping down the side… and then all over your hands. On the road when the kid on his cell phone pulls out in front of you without looking twice – or once for that matter. At the Dr.’s office as you’re shuffled in and out the door like you’re just another pretty face.
Think about each of these situations and how they make you feel. The lasting impact they have on you. Your mood. How you treat others as a result. It’s a slippery slope, and it all starts with hospitality. As a DPC doc, you can’t do much about most of those situations… except the last one. That might be the hardest one to remedy, too. The healthcare community isn’t taught how to be nice, so we tend to come off a little rough around the edges. You might also argue that while you didn’t go to school to fill out paperwork, you certainly didn’t go to school to learn how to schmooze and blow smoke, either. And you’d be right. But a little nice-ness can go a really, really, really long way. We’re going to explore how to bring hospitality to healthcare. We’re going to show you how to make your patients expect kindness, and show kindness in return.
Creating a Culture of Hospitality Among Your Patients.
Let’s start at the end, shall we? When the day is done, you want to have established loyalty between you and your patients. But how? There are so many options for alternatives these days that society says it’s okay to jump ship at the first sign of unhappiness. This is true for everything from cell phone carriers, to insurance companies, to even banks or grocery stores. So how do you build real loyalty in healthcare?
Appeal to to their primal need to be a part of something. Create a culture, an environment, a conversation they want in on. Give them what they want, but won’t tell you they want. Healthcare is a mess right now, and it’s on the verge of going through even more turbulence in coming years. Your DPC practice is a safe haven for patients who get caught up in the whirlwind – open it up to them! Go the extra mile in every aspect of your practice. Examine every detail and make sure it says “You’re welcome here. You can relax here. We’re taking care of you here.” The voice on the phone should be friendly and happy, not hurried and stressed. The lighting in your entrance area should be soft and comforting, not harsh and revealing. The decor in your exam rooms should be warm and plush, not cold and stiff. These things might not seem like they’ll cultivate loyalty, but they will! Patients will be drawn to the feeling they get from these details. They’ll want to repeat the experience. Speaking of experiences, let’s talk about which ones really, truly matter to your patients.
The Most Important Interactions.
Patients remember the first and last interactions they have with you, so capitalize on that. You should always aim to make an amazing first impression. Pretend you’re courting them, and at the end of that first appointment you ask them out again. Silently beg them to say yes. Internally jump for joy when they agree to see you again. You’ve officially made a good first impression!
Now it’s time for the real work to begin, because every interaction you have with them after that is technically the “last” one. Let’s review what an “interaction” actually is, though, because we don’t want anything to slip through the cracks. We’re talking a phone conversation, text message, email, Skype chat, Twitter DM, or face to face meeting. Every. Little. Thing.
If you use Atlas.md as your practice’s EMR, there are a hundred little ways you can personalize your interactions with patients. Do them. All of them. Although you might have landed some of your patients for life, you’re better served if you pretend they’re going to abandon you tomorrow if today’s interaction doesn’t go well. Inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes, folks!
Deliver True Service.
You may think you already deliver service to your patients. And you do. You have someone answering the phone when they call. You respond to their emails, DMs, and texts. They don’t have to wait forever for their appointment. But here’s the thing. True service is delivered on your patients’ schedule. They’re not used to things being on their terms, though, so you have to ask. What’s their schedule like? When are they most easily available? Would they prefer you come to them? They’ll probably feel weird about being the center of your universe at first, but they’re human. They’ll get used to it. And they’ll like it.
So to recap, it’s not enough to return their call. You have to return it promptly. It’s not enough to respond to their email. You have to respond in a timely manner. It’s not enough to only keep them waiting 5 minutes for their appointment. You shouldn’t keep them waiting at all.
Now, we understand those things don’t always happen. You do have other patients, after all. But try. Try really, really hard to the point it might stress you out a teeny tiny bit. If you deliver true service, you’ll get it right 98% of the time, and be immediately forgiven when you get it wrong.
Now that’s loyalty.