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    10 simple ways to keep patients happy

    Happy patients come back to your practice

    A basic goal of any eyecare practice is to keep patients coming back. One way to encourage patients to return is to keep them happy and comfortable while they’re in your office.

    Remember that patients may be frightened, anxious, or upset. Your next patient may have been diagnosed with pathology or been told that surgery is necessary.

    Keep all that in mind when you’re dealing with a particular patient’s attitude or personality. Your job is to put that patient at ease.

    Here are 10 ways to do that:

    1. Smile.

    The first thing a patient sees is your face—an open, welcoming, reassuring countenance helps to put a patient at ease. A smile is also important when a patient cannot see your face, such as speaking on the phone to a patient or a patient approaching you from behind, because a smile can be heard in your voice. It affects your tone.

    2. Say please and thank you

    Good manners go a long way. Your mother was always right. A gracious and polite personality is always appropriate in any situation. Niceties can transform a patient encounter from negative to positive.

    3. Wash your hands

    Patients expect you to do it; it’s appropriate for Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)-compliant medical offices. Patients will notice if you don’t and point it out, then it leads you to apologize and feel embarrassed. Try to sanitize the equipment and wash hands in view of the patient, if possible. If there’s no sink in the room, keep a bottle of hand sanitizer nearby.

    4. Introduce yourself.

    Say who you are and explain your role in the practice. The patient needs to know why you are important to her evaluation.

    5. Explain the purpose of a test.

    Many patients would prefer to defer testing for time, inconvenience, fear, or other reasons. Patients can appreciate why it’s important to their examination outcome, evaluation, and diagnostics. Plus, patients want to know what’s about to happen to them, what the test is evaluating, and why it’s important. They want to know if it’s going to hurt.

    6. Give one compliment.

    Everybody likes a compliment. A compliment may defuse an uncomfortable situation or distract from patient anxiety by broaching a topic important to her. For example, “I like that necklace.” The patient will respond that her son bought it for her in Fiji and bring her back to a happy memory.

    7. Provide a tissue.

    No patient likes eye drops dribbling down his cheeks. It’s embarrassing, it’s uncomfortable, and it is a very subtle form of loss of control. A tissue allows a patient to maintain dignity and also gives him something to hold onto (which is reassuring to many). Hand a tissue to the patient right before you instill eye drops.

    8. Offer a drink of water.

    I always offer patients a drink of water because they can become parched if they’re nervous. Providing a drink also shows that you want to take care of them and their needs. It is a personal, kind gesture. You’re playing host or hostess in your office.

    9. Acknowledge a return visit.

    “Mrs. Smith, it’s nice to see you again,” or “It’s been a long time,” or “I’m glad you’re back.” Patients appreciate being remembered. As a member of the staff, you should appreciate that a patient thought enough of the practice and the service (perhaps even yours) to want to come back.

    10. Repeat your name.

    You want to give patients a concrete contact person, namely you. Usually you say your name in the beginning of the exam, and patients may not remember it by the end. It’s good to remind them of who you are, especially because you’ve done a good job.ODT

    Katherine M. Mastrota, MS, OD, FAAO, Dipl ABO
    Director of Optometry, New York Hotel Trades Council, Hotel Association of New York City, Health Center, Inc.

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