Loyal patients are the lifeblood of a medical clinic. And devoted patients are worth their weight in gold. It’s a lot easier to care for an established patient that lots of one-timers who never return. Beyond ease of workflow, the economic benefits are fabulous. A loyal patient panel will stay with you (and pay you) through sickness and in health even if you don’t take their insurance — even if you choose to go cash only. Loyalty is earned. So what should you do? Follow me:
1. Solve problems. Physicians must solve their patients’ chief complaints. Don’t get distracted by one-size-fits-all algorithms and computer prompts. Treat the patient, not the computer, not the insurance company.
2. Return calls. If a patient calls, call them back ASAP. Return emails, labs, and test results the same day. Sooner is better. Patients get anxious when left waiting.
3. Start on time. Respect your patients’ time by staying on schedule. If you run late, apologize. Better yet, offer a $5 gift card for a cup of coffee. When I run late, my patients choose handmade soap from a giant wicker basket. What will you do?
4. Stay put. If you want patients to stop doctor shopping, then doctors should stop job hopping. Jumping from one clinic to another isn’t a winning strategy for a loyal following. Find or create an ideal clinic and stay there.
5. Have fun. Nobody wants to see a doctor who is stressed and depressed. Smile. Laugh. Tell a joke. Lighten up. Host a patient appreciation day every once in a while and hand out balloons and chocolates — just because!
6. Research and refer. If you can’t solve a problem, research and refer to someone who can. Reach beyond allopathic medicine when needed. Refer to acupuncturists, massage therapists, and other health professionals. Replace, “We have nothing left to offer you,” with “I’d like you to see my colleague who has had some incredible success treating your condition.” Never abandon your patients to Dr. Google.
7. Do house calls. You’ll basically stand out as the town hero when you treat a patient in their home. Try it weekly — even monthly. I bet you’ll love it!
Patients are routinely held hostage on phone trees and in packed waiting rooms, in paper gowns and cold stirrups. Believe me. It doesn’t take much to wow your patients. In fact, now I even get tips. Yesterday, I got an $80 tip on a $95 bill. Follow my strategies, and you’ll get tips too.
And you won’t even have to put out a tip jar.
Pamela Wible pioneered the community-designed ideal medical clinic and blogs at Ideal Medical Care. She is the author of Pet Goats and Pap Smears. Watch her TEDx talk, How to Get Naked with Your Doctor.