Business

INSIDE YOUR PRACTICE: Dealing With The Unhappy DPC Patient

Trending: Comment Cards Inside Your Practice Can Reassure Your Subscription-based Patients You Are Listening

By Michael Tetreault, Editor-In-Chief

Last Updated: July 19, 2018 | Originally Posted: MAY 31, 2013 – Patients don’t speak with their mouths, they speak with their feet and quietly on the Internet. Every heard the phrase that social media and online reviews are sometimes known as ‘the cowards canvas?’

Well, typically when your DPC patients are unhappy, they simply won’t come back. Why?

Often times, it is because of rude staff. Sometimes they leave because expectations were not met. You’d be surprised at how “underwhelming” some DPC and other subscription-based healthcare practices are, despite hanging a shingle for new patients using a membership medicine billing model and no longer accepting insurance.

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Definition: Underwhelm — [un·der·whelm ˌəndərˈ(h)welm/ verbhumorous gerund or present participle: underwhelming fail to impress or make a positive impact on (someone); disappoint.

“I recently called a DPC doctor’s office in my rural area,” said Jennifer, a prospective patient searching for help with her primary care needs. “I was in voice mail for nearly 4-minutes. I hung up and went to the retail clinic down the street. I know not all [DPC] clinics operate this way and I’m hopeful most do not. But, when I needed help, getting lost in a [DPC] doctor’s voice mail was not helpful at all and subsequently, they lost my business and those of my family and friends in my area.”

Urban Dictionary: voice mail hell — When accessing a voice mail phone answering system, one becomes lost, going down the wrong path or getting stuck in a loop, unable to get pertinent information or leave a message with the appropriate party.

For most clinics, DPC included, problematic patient-practice issues stem from someones  bad attitude, unprofessional service, dress code, a price increase or a change in the physical location of your practice. Most DPC doctors may never know … unless they ask. But, that requires relationship. One thing is for certain, allowing your patients an outlet and avenue to express their concerns indirectly through the use of comment cards can help you keep your patients year after year.

And with the national DPC patient retention rate virtually unknown in the monthly, cash-only subscription-based healthcare delivery model today, it’s more important than even to maintain your current patient-base.

From 2016 to 2018, The Direct Primary Care Journal began asking Doctors and their staff, “How Long Does It Take You To Recruit A “New” DPC Patient?” Fifty-four percent (54%) said between 1 and 4 plus months. Forty-five percent said between 1-4 weeks.

Additional interviews with DPC Physicians today also revealed that it can cost three times more to acquire a new patient than to keep an existing patient happy.

In 2018 alone, DPC Physician polling asked “As a DPC Doctor, What Do You Think Is Most Important to A Patient When Learning About Your Practice for the First Time?” Fifty percent of physician respondents said “Finding A Doctor They Like/Trust.” Forty-five percent of additional poll respondents indicated “Cost.”

A well-executed Patient Comment Card system and drop box by your door, in your lobby or perhaps elegantly placed in the exam room where they may find themselves bored or perhaps waiting and looking for something to do while you return can provide you with quite a bit of feedback and honest opinions your patients may never tell you to your face. Put this in any place where patients have to wait for you. It gives and your staff the vital information you need at the end of the day and shows that you respect the time, opinion and comments of your current patients. Not to mention, it also offers a simple, hassle-free way to give feedback to your staff — good or bad.

But, and here’s the caution. You, the Doctor need to read them first! Why? Well, when we originally wrote this story nearly five years ago, some Doctors found that staff began checking these boxes and removing comment cards that patients placed in the box that may have mentioned the staff members attitude or unbecoming conduct. Your patient wants to know you care. They want to know for certain that you will read each and every comment and take their concerns seriously.

Here’s a couple of quick tips:

  1. Encourage your patients to fill-in the card completely by giving incentives such as a complimentary $5 gift card on their next visit. Birthday and anniversary ideas are also great incentives too.“One of the best patient incentives I received was a hand-written congratulations card from my doctor when I graduated from business school with my MBA,” said one University of Georgia graduate school and patient of a Concierge Doctor. “I may have mentioned it in passing but I never in a million years thought my doctor cared.”
  2. You don’t need to spend big bucks on mass mailer or a local newspaper ad to attract new patients. While those items should be part of your marketing plan, comment cards focus on keeping the patients who already know, like and trust you and hopefully, value the services you provide to them.
  3. You’ll increase frequency of existing patients simply by asking these questions and offering a “thank-you” gift to be redeemed at a future date. Work with your marketing team and staff to create fun redemptions. If you think you need legal advice, run the incentive or gift past your attorney for about 5 minutes.
  4. Be creative. Design a comment card (with a drop box too – don’t rely on people to hand it to your staff) that people will want to complete. Include a section for rating the doctor on today’s visit, staff service, wait time, if any, office setting, and additional comments.
  5. The last section should ask for more basic information. Here’s where you can start building a valuable database, e.g. birthday’s, anniversary, children’s birthdays, etc.

Last and equally as important.

If something goes wrong in your concierge medicine or direct primary care practice, you want to have the chance to make it right—right away, don’t you? Don’t let that patient walk away from your practice for good.

Concierge Medicine Today and our sister publication, The Direct Primary Care Journal have provided some sample Patient Comment Card questions you can use for your own adaptation and inclusion into your practice.

SAMPLE PATIENT COMMENT CARD QUESTIONS:

INSTRUCTIONS: Please rate the following areas on a scale of:

1 – Unacceptable
2 – Needs improvement
3 – Fair
4 – Good
5 – Excellent

Your Doctor:
__ – Friendly
__ – Knowledgeable
__ – Prompt

Staff:
__ – Friendly
__ – Knowledgeable
__ – Prompt

What can we do to improve your next visit?

We’d like to send you a birthday or anniversary card throughout the year. Sometimes, we might include a special gift! J

Your Birthday (Year is not necessary J)

Your Anniversary (if applicable)

Would you like to be on our e-mail list?

________________________@______________________._________

Please add any other comments that will help us improve your experience here at our practice. Thank you.

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