BECAUSE PATIENTS JUDGE YOUR SKILLS BY YOUR BEDSIDE MANNER
A resident approached an elderly man on a gurney in the E.R.
Resident: “Do you know who I am?”
Old Guy: “Sure, you’re the doctor, but I don’t know your name.”
Resident: “So what brought you to the E.R.?”
Old Guy: “An ambulance.”
Branding is the commercial concept of developing a recognizable reputation that is marketable and has value in terms of goodwill. Professional practice incorporates the same concepts. Doctors, hospitals, and clinics all value their reputation and branding offers increased patient flow, research grants, and overall fiscal valuation of the entity. Most private practitioners are more concerned with their professional reputation out of pride and often don’t think of the business benefits derived from such branding that comes from their good reputation. There is nothing more potent for increasing the reputation and branding of the health-care professional than having a great bedside manner.
“I never would have expected to see the day that patients had no clue as to who their doctor is. They could care less nowadays. All they worry about is the ten-dollar
co-payment. When I started out, they would only see the doctor they had grown to love and respect. They knew my name.”
The lament of an older doctor.
For the provider in solo practice there is only one name on the door, making name recognition easy. In today’s professional practice, you may be the new associate or one of many practitioners in a group practice. To remain anonymous in a large practice will not serve you well. You need to create name recognition for yourself. If your compensation is based on productivity, it makes good economic sense to have patients requesting to see you and only you. If you decide to go on your own and you are not encumbered by a restrictive covenant, your patients will follow.
In a practice with more than one provider, you must make every effort to make sure the patient knows your name. You must be subtle and not get carried away in flaunting your name or you run the risk of looking egotistical. It’s easy to have your name mentioned and if you provide appropriate scripting it will get your name out there along with your reputation of having a great bedside manner.
The first opportunity to mention your own name is upon initial introduction, but it is often missed or forgotten by the already apprehensive patient. Another opportunity presents when using humor that gets your patient to laugh as described in the comedy chapter. After they laugh at any of your comical lines, it’s easy to say, “Just make sure you don’t tell your friends you were laughing during root canal treatment with Dr. Fleisher, or we’ll both get in trouble.” Not only does this get your name repeated in case they forgot the ten other times your staff mentioned it, but it also gets another laugh.
Besides mentioning your own name, you must make sure your staff mentions your name on all appropriate occasions. This begins with the very first contact by phone. “Mr. Smith, your appointment will be with doctor Fleisher, on Thursday, July 11.” When the patient arrives, your receptionist should repeat your name, “Good morning, Mr. Smith. You’ll be seeing Dr. Fleisher this morning. We’ll be with you shortly.”
“The doctor will be with you shortly. You can have a seat and fill out these forms,” is the greeting most often used and it is totally inappropriate.
When your patient is brought back to the treatment room, your assistant should again mention your name before and after they have done their preliminary workup. “Good morning. Mr. Smith. I see you’re here to see Dr. Fleisher.” They take the medical history or get an x-ray, and when they are ready to leave the room they say, “Dr. Fleisher will be with you shortly.”
There should be no reason for a patient to ask, “Which doctor are you?” If they do, your staff is not doing their job, the patient didn’t hear the staff’s numerous attempts to mention your name, or the patient just wants to be sure whom they are seeing.
When they do ask, “Which doctor are you?” reply with, “I’m not a witch doctor, I think you may have the wrong office.” Not only will they soon know your name, they know you have a sense of humor and it sets the stage for the fast bonding that humor engenders.
If the patient needs another appointment, make sure your receptionist again mentions your name. “Here’s your appointment card. Dr. Fleisher will look forward to seeing you on the twenty-sixth.”
Some people just can’t remember names–especially if you are in a specialty practice, where the patients don’t see you often. Even if the patient can’t remember your name, they may remember a particular trait that keeps them seeking you and only you. Always be distinctive.
Name recognition is what makes up the nebulous concept of goodwill. It is often goodwill that is bought and sold when professional practices change hands. Make sure you have an identifiable name, as it adds value to your goodwill.
• Craig C
• A. Vo