Patient rapport managers strengthen relationships between physicians and patients
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When my phone rang a few hours after I’d had bilateral eye surgery, I thought it was a friend or family member calling to check up on me. Instead, I was greeted by the voice of the ophthalmologist who had performed my procedure that morning.
In a conversation that lasted less than two minutes, my surgeon was able to personally assess my post-operative condition, answer the question I’d forgotten to ask before discharge and provide me with the comforting assurance that all was going according to plan. I felt very well cared for.
Of course, not every doctor has the time, the proclivity or the need to make follow-up calls on a regular basis. That’s where patient rapport managers come in.
Patient rapport managers are members of your team with healthcare experience who provide extra attention to patients on your behalf. Serving as a liaison between you and your patients and/or their caregivers, this person delivers the ad hoc follow-up you simply don’t have the bandwidth to offer. As a go-between for people on both sides of the examination table, patient rapport managers bridge any gaps between patients and practitioners.
There are countless services patient rapport managers can offer including touching base with patients after an invasive procedure, a sudden illness, a trauma or an emotional event, such as the death of a family member. They can also review standard protocols, such as wound care or concussion management; assess compliance and the basic effectiveness of prescriptions or treatments; notify patients about scheduling changes or delays; and suggest appropriate after-hour referrals for agencies, such as home care or social services.
Most importantly, patient rapport managers can be on the lookout for any medical red flags that warrant your attention but might otherwise be missed. They can then notify you so you can be proactive in providing the necessary care.
The number of hours patient rapport managers work depends entirely on the responsibilities you assign. This position is ideal for healthcare professionals who would like to work part time from home because follow-up calls or texts can be made from anywhere and often occur during the evening.
Or, you could have in-house patient rapport managers who make follow-up calls from your clinic as part of their daily routine. That’s what happened when I had a dermatologic procedure not long ago. As part of the dermatologist’s standard protocol, the nurse who assisted during the excision phoned the next morning to see how I was doing. I was familiar with her, and I welcomed her thoughtful call. It was a lovely touch.
Not only can this team member alert you to potential problems, their services add another layer of compassion to your already excellent standards of care by removing some of the barriers between you and your patients. They can also alleviate patients’ feelings of intimidation or frustration, calm fears and uncertainties, answer common questions and develop a sense of allegiance.
There is a financial benefit, too. While some doctors, like my ophthalmologist, prefer to make follow-up calls themselves, there’s no question that hiring patient rapport managers frees up physicians’ time to see more patients and ultimately make those calls less costly.
A good place to start is with your current staff. Is there a registered nurse or physician assistant on your team who’s thinking about cutting back their hours? Is anyone talking about retirement or expressing a desire to spend more time at home with their children? Is there a staff member who’s got a special knack for connecting with patients?
Any of these people may be interested in working with you to take on and develop this position. Alternatively, you could start a job search for a medical professional who has experience as a hospital patient liaison or care ambassador. Once hired, you can work together to establish protocols, tasks and boundaries.
Adding a patient rapport manager to your clinic will build more than strong doctor-patient relationships. It will also help you build a loyal following and a burgeoning practice that is known for providing outstanding care that goes above and beyond expectations.
Sue Jacques is a keynote speaker, consultant and author who specializes in medical and corporate civility. A former forensic death investigator, Sue performed the medical investigation of thousands of unexpected and violent deaths during her career at the medical examiner's office. She now helps people and practices prosper through professionalism. Learn more at www.SueJacques.com or follow her @TheSueJacques.