Follow Up with Your Patients

September 20, 2014

Stepping up your customer service can be enlightening and rewarding. Following up with patients is one way to find out how well you are doing.

One Saturday morning, I received a phone call from the manager of a restaurant we had visited the prior night. I was a little surprised, as we had a relatively uneventful meal. As I relayed my overall experience at the restaurant and thoughts about our meal, the manager took notes, read my statements back to me, and was very, very interested in my experience. His goal was not only for us to return, but to improve our next experience. He assured me he was going to make an additional follow-up call once we did return. I hung up, and sorted through the gamut of thoughts buzzing through my head.

Thinking about this experience, I realized that adopting this type of follow-up process for a medical practice can only help physicians and staff know more about their patients' experiences. I know that in the recent past, our staff was a little afraid to ask about our patients' billing experiences. But now, I'm extremely interested in the feedback about the patient billing experience. Here is one way to structure your own follow-up program:

The phone call should be approximately 60 days after the patient was seen in your office. Questions should include:

1. How is your (body part/illness) feeling?

• Sounds like you have some questions.

• Tell me what's going on.

2. What are you having difficulty doing in your home/at work?

• It sounds like you might need some help.

• Let's get you scheduled, I have an opening tomorrow.

3. Are you happy with your results of your visit to our office?

4. Did anyone go out of their way to make you feel welcomed?

5. Do you have any questions about your billing statement?

• If yes, someone from billing department should call back the patient.

6. Would you recommend our office to others?

7. Do you know anyone else who may need our help?

These types of questions can shed light into several areas of your overall process at your practice. Pay close attention when your patient shares information with you. Be attentive, acknowledge their perception, repeat back what you have heard. You are creating a new experience for the patient that they most likely have never had, prior to your phone call. You are offering them an opportunity to be heard.

Once you have this information, what you do with it next is just as critical as making the initial phone call to the patient. You have two options: Ignore the information because you are too afraid to move forward with changes, or embrace the opportunity to solve a problem. Pick the latter, every time. You will not regret it.

A weekly report should be created based upon patient feedback. You can keep the patient's name anonymous, if you feel the information would be better received. Otherwise you might hear from your staff, "Well, they have always been a difficult patient," or some other snarky remark. This is a great training tool and also material for year-end reviews.

This type of information is truly invaluable and should be treated with the respect it commands. Just think about how much better your practice can run.