Note: This is an edited transcript of the material we present in the above podcast episode.
In today’s podcast, we’re talking about the patient journey. What I mean by that is the patient journey at the most relationship-oriented step that you can begin in the middle of the marketing process. That is the first appointment, which is the first time you generally shake hands with somebody and get involved with them.
So we’re going to walk you through it, and I’m going to be the patient. So we will take you through, and you can experience what it’s like to have an ideal initial appointment.
So, Rod, I’ve booked my appointment. I’ve had an excellent phone call. I’ve trusted the person on the end of the phone enough to say, “Okay. Yeah. I’ve maybe talked to two or three clinics and thought,
“Yeah. Okay. This is the one I want to see.”
Or perhaps I’m even going to two. Let’s just pretend I’m going to two. So I’ve booked an appointment. I’m coming to see you. So what happens next? If you’re giving me the ideal experience?
It starts with the confirmation letter
Okay. Well, it all starts by laying the groundwork and setting the scene. I like this kind of theatrical language because it really is all about theatre, about being on stage versus being offstage. I’ll get into that in a moment.
So how do you set the scene? Well, it all begins with the confirmation letter, and that’s a step a lot of people kind of overlook. That confirmation letter has to be exciting. It’s got to tell people what to expect. It has to take personal responsibility and be written on a one-to-one level, in terms of a personal tone.
If you’re in the high-price category, it should give them an idea of what you charge. I’m not expecting you to send a whole price list, like a menu or something like that, but it should give them a guide. Otherwise, you’ll end up having people show up at your practice who have no intention of paying what you charge.
Lastly, it needs to tell them everything about what to expect in terms of what you’re going to do for them. It needs to list essential instructions that they need to do or bring to the consultation so that they’re well prepared and, importantly, a form attached to complete that form ahead of time and save you time when they actually get to the consultation.
Okay, nice. So you’ve sent me this, and I didn’t get one from the other player or, let’s say, the other player did send me the typical form letter, which is very superficial and uninteresting. So it’s like, “Okay, already, this clinic is winning.” Okay.
So what’s next? What happens?
So what’s next is you show up, and here’s what’s important. In our diary, it might say the appointment starts at 9:00. I always like to advise clinics to tell their patient to arrive 15 minutes before, but don’t tell them in that context. Tell them, “Your appointment is at 8:45” for a 9:00 appointment.
Why? Because clinics run late and most people will not bring in their forms. They’ll have to actually fill in their forms. The patient themselves might be late, so this allows us to start on time, even if they’re late.
So once they come in, then here’s what happens. The receptionist identifies who they are, ideally through the camera that’s on the front door. Many Intercom systems have a camera and then know that you’re actually walking in. You’re a new patient. They stand up from their desk, extend their hand and welcome the patient to the clinic. That’s number one.
I want you to think about it, how do people do it in five-star hotels? Are they sitting behind a desk on the phone or talking to their colleagues? If they are, then it’s really doesn’t deserve the five-star moniker. They’ve got to be there, engaged, ready to go.
I advise other people in the practice not to go in the back behind reception and start a conversation or hang out or eat their lunch or all that stuff.
That’s got to be backstage behaviour. That’s offstage. You don’t see the actors hanging around during the big scenes. So what we’re doing here is we’re putting on a play, and this receptionist needs to smile, welcome that patient and be there for them.
Yeah. So I’m already feeling welcomed. I’m already feeling very different to how I feel when I go into most environments. For example, in most business environments in the UK, the reception team is usually disinterested. They’re, literally, just checking boxes. They’re barely breathing, and they really don’t seem like they’re having a perfect time.
So I’m already sort of feeling good, and, again, this is really what we’re after here is to feel good as I go through the process and start to get excited. Okay. So I began to feel slightly excited, so I’ve greeted the receptionist. I feel like, “Okay, I’m a human being. They see that I’m human.”
And it goes further than that. The receptionist offers to take your coat and bags and put them in a secure location. Then they say,
“Thank you for coming. I’d like to invite you to complete our registration form if you haven’t brought one already with you. Here it is. It takes about 10 minutes to complete,” if that’s how long it takes.
You give them an indication of what to expect. You also make sure that the patient knows how much time they have so they don’t spend dilly-dallying.
Then the receptionist, who’s standing up already, leads them to their seat and says, “Have a seat.” Once they sit down, they say, “Can I get you tea or coffee?” Then-
So I’m starting to feel really cared for.
Oh, yeah. I mean, you should feel like you’re at a spa.
So you’re sat down now, and the receptionist now offers you a tea and coffee and do they say, “Yeah, it’s right over there?” No, they actually go and get-
Which is common.
Exactly. The receptionist goes to get the coffee or tea for you. When they return with the tea or coffee, they say,
“There you go. Your patient liaison will be with you in 15 minutes. If you need to use the facilities, it’s right over there. Ask me if you need help. If you need the WiFi, that’s our sign right over there. If you need a phone, just ask me.”
Yeah. That’s excellent. So you’ve thought about me. You’ve considered that I’m in a brand new environment. I have no idea where anything is. I might want to do a quick work thing before my appointment. You’ve basically made me feel welcome, and you’ve taken care of my needs, so I’m feeling excellent.
Yeah. Good, good, good.
Now the receptionist fills in some details and alerts the patient liaison. I always recommend clinics have a patient liaison to do this next part of the process.
So the receptionist lets the patient liaison know, “Okay, your patient is here.” So that the patient liaison takes the initiative to get up out of their office at the prescribed moment. But, again, they should be in their own room because they have to have a private conversation with this individual.
That’s often overlooked. In terms of planning a clinic, nobody ever thinks about that. Still, it’s imperative when building in a clinic, you actually put a room for these kinds of conversations.
The Patient liaison comes out and ensures that the patient has completed their form. You know that because the receptionist has probably received it. Then you go to the patient, and you introduce yourself. So I would say,
“Hi, welcome to” whatever the clinic is. “My name is Rod, and I’ll be your patient liaison. I’d invite you to come in and have a chat with me in my office. Is that okay?”
Then the patient says, “Absolutely-”
… and they escort you to the office.