Presentation is Sooo Important

December 20, 2007

What has happened to the pristine and professional appearance once expected in the medical office? These days, I visit medical practices that have taken a relaxed, casual environment to the extreme in terms of dress codes, attitudes, and environment.

What has happened to the pristine and professional appearance once expected in the medical office? These days, I visit medical practices that have taken a relaxed, casual environment to the extreme in terms of dress codes, attitudes, and environment.

Take a fresh look at the image you are projecting. Is it time to shift into a higher gear?

For starters, cast a critiquing eye on the appearance of those that represent you -- staff! I see way too many jeans, tennis shoes, and front-office staff in scrubs that look more like slept-in pajamas. You may deem it fine for clinical staff to wear scrubs, as long as they are clean and pressed, but I vote to have front-office staff dressed in business casual attire. This means absolutely no jeans, bare midriffs, t-shirts, flip-flops, or tennis shoes. Add to this the sensible use of jewelry and make-up. State all this very clearly in the practice office policy's dress code, and reinforce it when hiring new staff. And doctors, you set the tone. If you want more respect, dress the part.

How about the attitude projected by your practice? "May I help you?" goes a long way in building both patient relations and a positive image. Get rid of the sign-in sheet. Instead, have staff actually greet each patient with a smile while offering assistance. I rarely see this when I am conducting mystery patient visits, and it's so easy to fix.

Finally, what does your practice environment say about you? It should be as cozy and well-maintained as a room in your home. Good lighting and comfortable furniture are "must haves." Any carpeting should be in good repair; if not, replace it. Also, take a good look at the reading material you're offering. You might have your own airplane, but don't flaunt it with a barrage of aviation magazines in the reception room. The magazines should be current and reflect the interest of your patients. And while you're at it, get rid of the television. Who wants to listen to someone else's favorite soap opera or a program that is not age appropriate? Make sure your furnishings are well-maintained and in vogue. Recently, I visited an office where the color and theme was reminiscent of the '70s (and not in a "retro chic" way). This can lead people to wonder if perhaps the physicians' skills haven't been updated either. And of course, your office should always be able to pass a "white glove" test.

Your office and staff are an extension of you and how your patients view you. Give these important issues the attention they deserve. Then make a commitment to keep it that way. You'll be glad you did.

Judy Capko is a healthcare consultant with more than 20 years of experience. She is also the founder of Capko & Company (www.capko.com). Her emphasis is on improving practice performance by valuing staff, building patient-centered strategies, and making the most of resources. She is the author of the top-selling book "Secrets of the Best-Run Practices," Greenbranch Publishing. Judy has received national recognition in her field, working with both small and large practices, as well as major academic faculty practices from coast to coast. She is a popular speaker for major healthcare conferences and healthcare executive summits. She can be reached at judy@capko.com or 805 499 9203.