practice management tips

The ultimate roadmap to get better patient reviews

The majority of negative patient reviews are about the customer experience. That is why this roadmap to better reviews focuses on what you can do. As the owner of the practice, the practice manager, or the receptionist. We call them practice management tips and we have summarised 5 easy-to-implement new habits.
practice management tips

The ultimate roadmap to get better patient reviews

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice

Kris Borgraeve

January 7, 2022

#1 Face up to the fact that the word ‘rude’ is often used

tips for practice managers

On consumer forums, one of the trending topics is the generalised idea that medical receptionists are often ‘rude’. Now if you are a practice manager or a receptionist, don’t swipe away this article in a knee-jerk reaction just yet! We know that patients can also abuse the receptionist. Successful teams are able to take a step back and develop strategies to handle situations.

Some will suggest that the vibe we pick up at a medical reception desk is a direct reflection of the practice management and the doctors who own the practice. Quite often a friendly doctor seems to have a friendly reception team.

A first action step is doing a reality check and spot if there is any ‘perceived rudeness’ you can change. Open the conversation. Keep a record of reviews or comments about unfriendly behaviour, and start creating higher levels of awareness with your team, the doctors or surgeons, and the practice management team.

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice
Kris Borgraeve | Founder Digital Practice

If I were to be a mystery shopper today and present at your practice, would the receptionist smile, make eye contact, and make sure I feel acknowledged when I walk up to the desk? If I were that mystery shopper today, would I feel inclined to write an amazing and positive review about the customer service experience or would you be at risk of receiving a negative review?

Remember that in general, people share negative experiences with at least 15 other people.

#2 Check if receptionists are mimicking the boss

company culture in healthcare

Let’s open a big can of worms here. Sometimes one can observe that what is happening is a big mimicking operation. If the receptionist feels disrespected by the surgeon, what do you think is going to define the energy in the room(s)?

There are plenty of resources to understand personality types, and there is often a space where you can bring up behaviours and habits, as long as your intention is to improve the overall patient experience.

Sometimes receptionists are simply not aware of the experience on the other side. Here’s my favourite checklist of behaviours to inspect:

  • Talking to a colleague instead of acknowledging the patient: While you may hold a firm belief that the conversation about last night’s new pasta dish you prepared for your family is quintessential for your relationship with your colleague…It probably deserves an interruption and a refocus, once a patient comes through the door and walks up to the desk, don’t you think? Oh, and if the boss has a habit of not really acknowledging the patient, rushing into the reception space with a nervous energy…that is where you are at risk of mimicking because you think that’s how life works.
  • Expressing contempt about a computer, a fax machine, a desktop phone or any type of information you have just received, often doesn’t really make any difference. If you catch yourself sighing repeatedly over some random office task, think about that patient observing you from that chair in the waiting room. Oh, and if the boss has a habit of sighing, expressing contempt or making you feel nothing is up to his/her standards, you could be at risk of mimicking this.
  • Consultation fatigue happens when we think we have explained this way too many times. Except, this patient has asked the question for the very first time in his or her life. So can you blame them for pointing out something they really need to know? Again, when your boss feels this way about consultations, how likely is it that the whole practice starts mimicking this attitude?

None of this is easy. We are talking about the way people feel, and this is often a slightly more delicate topic than reading blood results.

#3 Use your initiative and aim to improve

medical receptionist coaching

In general, life experience helps us overcome the friction that comes with reception work. That is why there is a benefit in sticking around and going for better, whatever that means in your particular situation.

Sometimes just becoming more aware makes a big difference. Stick a note on your computer to remind you of your new habit. Make eye contact, pause whatever you were doing and give your full attention to the patient.

Sometimes I am in awe when a receptionist demonstrates the amazing skill of interrupting a conversation with grace, answering the phone with warmth and friendliness to then elegantly assess what is most urgent, leaving the ‘less urgent’ customer with a feeling of gratitude for being acknowledged. Would you mind holding the line for a tick, I won’t be a minute …

Professional help exists in many forms, to inspect the energy behind your reception desk and the way patients perceive your levels of friendliness, care and…rudeness. Even if you thought nobody would ever label your work as rude, you may have created perceived rudeness without knowing it. It always pays to look for continuous improvements with the help of:

  • A performance coach
  • A customer service expert
  • A professional mystery shopper

To really create breakthrough experiences, it may even be useful to bring in experts from other industries. Someone who trains hospitality staff, for example, will have a really open view on medical reception work and bring new insights and recommendations.

practice management tips

#4 Show patients you care and smile often

front desk tips for healthcare receptionists

We can be brief about this one. Smiling is not something we learn by reading a manual. But you can train yourself to smile more often. Or at least to become aware of the moments you are not smiling.

Install a mirror to check in with yourself. Take unexpected selfies. Ask your colleague to check the expression on your face. Whatever it takes, show patients that you care and introduce more frequent genuine smiles.

Disclaimer: If you become this new you and you overestimate the potential of your facial muscles, you may up ending having an awkward grin as you greet the patient. We can obviously agree that this is not what we are aiming for here. 

#5 Train your team and use roleplay so you are ready

training for medical receptionists

Excellent results come out of roleplay sessions with your team and the good news is, you can even do these exercises over Zoom.

If you bring some of the real-life situations to a roleplay session, you will find that the real emotions also show up in a session. The built-up irritation, the contempt, the fatigue of dealing with the same obstacle or situation. That’s all fine, when you take the time to inspect what is happening in the human-connection department of your practice, you will undoubtedly come across certain things that could do with some extra attention.

Again, if the owner/boss is there, and her/his attitude is part of what defines the energy in the room, have the courage to politely point out that it impacts the way the practice is functioning.

If you are the owner, ask for open feedback. Take the opportunity to train and retrain your team in what is probably one of the most important aspects of your practice: the way you deal with people.

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Let us help you define the goals

get better patient reviews

Even if your jurisdiction does not allow asking for reviews, what you can influence is the way people feel when they deal with you and your team. Friendliness at the reception desk is a key factor when it comes to influencing the tone of the online reviews your practice receives. To find out what you can do in this area, book your free strategy consultation and we will work out a custom plan to put you in touch with the expert you need to make a change.

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