Recently, on a trusted recommendation, I attended a small private hospital in the South-East of England (a 500 mile round trip from my home), to have a consultation with a specialist and to participate in some tests.
The fee for the time I spent in the hospital was around £1700, and the outcome (apart from a chat and a couple of short emails), mainly consisted of an estimate for the treatment that they had offered to me.
Although I was very grateful for a possible (but expensive) solution, I was irritated by the process. I know that I can be a ‘grumpy old man’ at times, but there are a lot of us with the pathologies that age bestows upon us and as a result, we make for great patients!
But consider this, none of us really want a consultation. We simply want the treatment and the outcome! We accept that a consultation is a necessary step toward finding a solution or providing an outcome to our situation. That’s why Carpet Fitters write on their vans, ‘Free Estimates’, they know that their clients don’t really want to pay for an estimate! However, the Carpet Fitter needs to size up the job, decide the way forwards, offer an estimate and close the sale. Much like a dentist…
Now, I’m not an advocate of offering free consultations, as I’ve always believed that ‘folk don’t value what they don’t pay for’. (Look at the number of missed appointments in NHS GP Surgeries and Hospital Out-Patients Clinics.) However, I’m beginning to think that paying for a ‘consultation’ can leave the patient feeling grumpy too, unless you can turn the experience into something that genuinely adds value to the patient.
So, how can you do that during a new patient consultation in a dental practice?
Let me tell you a little bit more about my private hospital experience and I think you will see the parallels with a dental practice. During my visit, they ran late and I wasn’t told how long I might have to wait or how long the consultation would take, so I couldn’t easily arrange to do anything else with my time. At no time did anyone explain to me how they conducted their consultations, what might happen, how long it might take and what I might expect at the end. I felt that my presence in their clinic was mostly to allow them to reach whatever conclusions they could and that part of the deal was that I would behave like a good patient and do whatever was asked of me as I was poked and bled! I felt that I had better let them run their systems, (but nobody told me what they were). I felt like my experience was a win for them but a loss for me, particularly financially. They hadn’t made it clear what the value of a consultation would be, and I left the clinic with the very same symptoms that I arrived with…
So, in order for your patients to leave your new patient consultations feeling satisfied with their appointment, I suggest that you consider some of the following suggestions as to how to add value to this important visit:
- Tell patients that are coming to you for a new patient consultation:
- How your new patient consultations are structured, both in advance of the visit and on the day.
- How long the whole visit will take.
- How you will communicate the outcomes, treatment plan/solutions that you will be offering.
- To inform the practice staff if they are experiencing any pain or discomfort, you will then have time to offer any first aid or temporary solutions to relieve their symptoms.
That they will receive a thorough verbal and written explanation of their diagnosis.
- When you offer patients a treatment plan:
- Provide any information sheets that you might have on their diagnosis or the treatment that you are offering them and include other useful sources such as web site address etc.
- Show them any visual aids you have including video,’ before and after’, testimonials etc to help them increase their understanding and confidence that you can deal with their problem.
- Accurately explain what the costs are likely to be in order to reach the solution/outcome they are seeking.
- Tell them when the payments are due and how you accept payment. If you offer credit facilities, this is a good time to tell the patient.
- Tell them how long the procedures will take (for car parking/ away from the office, be out of mobile contact etc.
- Tell them what to expect, during the treatment, and how they might feel afterwards including: whether they can/should drive, whether they should be accompanied, whether they can expect to go back to work and function properly!
- Tell them what will be expected of them before, during and after the treatment in terms of managing their eating/work/social life.
- Give them a chance to ask questions in private and not at your front desk.
- Dedicate one of your team to them as a point of contact so that once they’ve had a chance to discuss their visit with family and friends, they can ask more questions or voice their fears. Alternatively, contact them yourself at an agreed time to ask them if they have any further questions.
My private hospital experience got a lot better once I discovered that they had a ‘Patient Liaison’ office who although seemingly a well kept secret, were willing and able to answer my questions. Eventually, their patience enabled me to say yes to their proposed treatment plan and my symptoms are now getting better!
So, how about establishing a version of the ‘patient liaison office’ in your practice, or dedicating a member of your team to be a patient coordinator/care nurse who will help new patients understand more about what is entailed in their treatment, and therefore more readily accept your treatment plans.
If you would like some help with effective strategies to have a steady stream of new and existing patients wanting to buy from your practice, then please contact Ernie on 0845 299 7209 or firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss and find out more about how we can help you.